Jun 19, 2020

Working Assumptions for White Activists on Eliminating Racism: Guidelines for Recruiting Other Whites as Allies

By Ricky Sherover-Marcuse / filmsforaction.org
Working Assumptions for White Activists on Eliminating Racism: Guidelines for Recruiting Other Whites as Allies
#LiberationTheory
  1. Assume that all human beings desire warm, close relationships with each other. This is also true of you and of all other white people. 

     

  2. Assume that you are a regular white person (not an exceptional white person) and that all whites are good people, caring, intelligent, compassionate, and hard-working. 

     

  3. Recognize that we have much to celebrate about our histories and our diversities; we have rich traditions of music and dance, and proud histories of struggle. 

     

  4. Assume that all white people have undergone some variety of systematic conditioning or ‘training’ to take on the ‘oppressor role’ in relation to people of color. Sometimes this training has been to participate in acts of violence, or to join in racial slurs or jokes; sometimes this training has been to keep silent in the face of injustice. Sometimes this training has been to be ‘extra nice’ towards people of color … 

     

  5. Assume that no human being would have ever agreed to take on any aspect of an oppressor role if they had not first been mistreated or oppressed themselves- originally as young people, and in a variety of other ways. 

     

  6. Assume that no white person ever chose to acquire any of the conditioning or training and that every one of us attempted to resist taking on any aspect of the oppressor role. 

     

  7. Assume that the history of our own acts of resistance has been obscured and hidden from us and that many of us feel no pride in our own heritages and traditions. 

     

  8. Recognize that most whites in the United States and Canada have a history of immigrant oppression in which their own ethnic group has been the target of mistreatment at the hands of other white ethnic groups who were in a position of relative social power. 

     

  9. Recognize that all people need the acknowledgement that their liberation issues are legitimate. 

     

  10. Assume that in spite of the material rewards and preferential treatment that our society gives to white people, these ‘advantages’ do not offset the real costs of racism to us as human beings. 

     

  11. Assume that the conditioning which white people have undergone has been hurtful to us as human beings: it has betrayed our sense of ourselves, robbed us of close and trusting relationships with our families, given us a false picture of reality, isolated us from the majority of the world’s peoples, blunted our imagination, limited our vision, enforced a sense of powerlessness, hampered our ability to love. 

     

  12. Assume that at some level, all white people know this. Accordingly the task of the white activist is not to persuade or convince other whites of this truth, but to make their own buried awareness accessible to them. 

     

  13. Assume that the elimination of racism is in the real self-interest of all people. 

     

  14. Assume that all white people are eager to join in the project of eliminating racism and that appearances to the contrary are the result of feelings of despair and powerlessness caused by the individual’s own experiences of oppression and mistreatment. 

     

  15. Recognize how the temptation to classify other whites into ‘good whites’ and ‘bad whites’ is often a mechanism for perpetuating other forms of oppression such as classism and regional oppression. 

     

  16. Recognize that engaging in anti-racist activity commits us to the building of real connections with all people and functioning as allies for them. 

     

  17. Assume that white people (like all other human beings) will change their minds and let go of deeply ingrained attitudes and behavior patterns when1) they feel acknowledged and appreciated as individuals;

    2) they are listened to with complete respect on their own grievances and liberation concerns;

    3) they trust the person presenting the new perspective;

    4) the new perspective makes sense to them;

    5) they are not blamed for their prior conditioning or behavior.

     

  18. Recognize that recruiting other whites to join us is also an opportunity to learn from them, and that they have much to teach us.

 


 

Ricky Sherover-Marcuse is best known among a generation of political activists from the sixties and seventies as the initiator of workshops in “unlearning racism.” She developed this form of consciousness raising, and conducted workshops all over the United States, Europe, and the Middle East until her death from cancer in December 1988.

A Jew, committed to the liberation of all peoples, Ricky was determined to forge an authentic, socialist revolutionary movement by encouraging both an understanding of the political roots of oppression, and of how it is personally internalized within each of us and enacted, however unwittingly, in daily life.

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