Common Dreams - After a recent talk on racism and other illegitimate hierarchies at a diversity conference in Dallas, I received a letter from one of the people who had attended that asked "why you feel it necessary to perpetuate and even exacerbate the divisiveness of language when addressing a group of people assembled to learn how to live better together and be more accepting of differences?" He suggested that by being so sharply critical, I was part of the problem not the solution.
Calls for diversity and inclusiveness from people with privilege (such as a white man with a professional job living in the United States) are meaningful only when we are willing to address the systems and structures of power in which inequality and discrimination are rooted. But because such a critique strikes many people as too radical, crafting a response to those who want to avoid that analysis is crucial to the struggle for progressive social change. Below is my letter to him.
Dear ____: Thanks for the note and the challenge to my presentation. It's clear we disagree, and getting clearer about where we differ is important.
First, I disagree with your suggestion that we should not assess blame for existing patterns of racial inequality and injustice, though I would substitute the word "accountability" for "blame." I can't imagine how we could move forward on any question of injustice without holding those responsible for the injustice accountable, which means holding ourselves accountable. This reflects a basic moral principle -- those who inflict injuries, or turn away when they see others inflicting injuries, must be accountable for their behavior. Read more.