Jane Elliott and a Conversation on Combatting Racism at its source



[Adilifu Fundi, author of the books Trouble in Black Paradise and Moving on The Road To A Man-Song Sanctuary, posted a response to a video I reposted on Facebook regarding the remarkable exercise taught by Jane Elliott.  This response is a remarkable lesson in and of itself.]

Adilifu Fundi:

Here’s the oh so rare situation where a “critically thinking” white person actually calls white people out on their normalized racist privilege–underscored by exposing the fact that those whites (posturing in “innocence”) are absolutely, totally “aware” of what the white run & controlled “system” is doing to Black people. They are totally “aware” of how they participate in it & benefit from it, without the courage to confront it. “Truth” means they would have to change their own behavior.

Whites clearly know that to confront white racist reality is to suddenly draw white retaliation fire toward “them”–& it would be far worse, as they would be branded as “traitors.” (they’ve definitely seen photos from the South where white figures were far more desecrated, hanging in effigy next to Black ones, with signs saying they “merely thought about integrating”). It’s the equivalent of these same whites standing up to stop a homosexual from being pummeled by a vicious mob–bravely stepping out of the nasty “pack”–the gumption to protect humanity right in the community where they live.

I believe Jane Elliot is the same incredible teacher who would conduct racism workshops in her predominantly white classes (as seen on an early Oprah Show). The white students for an entire day would have to be subject to how Blacks are treated, reminding those students (who could hardly take it any longer) that they have to suck it up and endure, as they are part of “that” group which cannot escape from who they are (or what they “look” like). Her workshop tactics were reminiscent of what we as Black social/educational repair trainers & multicultural sensitivity facilitators would employ; we welcomed her & praised her as a white person confronting whites with hands on humanitarian reality.

[Note: Please take the time to review the original post and the dialog to which Fundi next refers by clicking the paragraph to go to Ainsworth Forgenie’s  Facebook page.]

And I’ll now address the line of dialogue triggered on this post–which is revealing. Shawn in particular (driving the opposition & resistance to historical developmental reality–& resistance to cross cultural “empathy”) doesn’t even hear irony in himself when he refers to “us” verses “them” in his altruistic retort.

The very notion of “us” (whites) compared to “them” (Blacks & all others considered “outsiders”) is a white racist construct, designed by white supremacists (historically controlling the country’s discourse thru media, the entire educational system, “radicalized” Christianity, etc…). It employs other whites psychologically with the job to keep “outsiders” in their place with religious fervor–making them feel its their moral duty to do so. If Shawn were so “neutral” or not guilty of “reflecting racist behavior,” he would have referred to “us” as the entire human race, combating those sectors & individuals who target “some” for discrimination.

Instead, he sticks to “comfortably” being the white “us” (even though he has a “Black” in-law). Neither Shawn, nor any of the other whites on this post who refute Jane Elliot’s “point,” would have stood in that room. She would have methodically called them to task in front of all those white people, itemizing for their conscious perception irrefutable examples of white systemic control–crafted to have catastrophic physical & psychological consequences on nonwhite targets–& designed to endure cosmetic appearances of “progress” in a situation still tightly controlled by whites. She would have called them on it. By not standing Shawn & his philosophical supporters could & would have simply just blended into the room–which is her point–thereby simultaneously deflecting any clear-cut examples of their internalized racism being made palpable (& unavoidable); the oh-so clever way whites avoid being “educated” about racist reality itself.

Like socially successful Blacks who confront racist reality Jane Elliot represents “power”–disconcerting white female “power” (brave enough to step out of the “integrity killing” pack). I believe the “white proper” term for these “reps” is rabble-rousers. Ironically if those “bad apple” Blacks that Shawn speaks of actually mended their brokenness from centuries of racist “containment” (& the Black “gotten overs” who’ve sold-out would suddenly find “allegiance” to Blacks they’ve left behind) pulling their combined “boots” up would bring a huge concentrated “force” crashing upon racism in the system–laying bare & putting Shawn’s racial privilege in jeopardy of falling on an equal plane. A thing Shawn would not be “altruistically” praising!

This is my response to him:

What a response! And what a lesson! Adilifu Fundi, your direct illumination of this issue is important and your aim at the heart of the problem is right on target.

The article that I quote below in Smithsonian Magazine regarding the historic lesson taught by Jane Elliot brought to me something that I learned a long time ago: those who are taught to hate as the ‘standard model’ that their parent’s espouse will continue to live in unconscious ignorance because they learn another powerful secondary model to support their ‘justified’ position. That secondary model is the willful continuation of the concept of ‘us v. them’.

Living in willful ignorance (knowing in your heart and mind that what you have been taught is uncomfortably wrong but continuing the cycle by passing that education on to others) is a construct of self-perpetuation, and that cycle does so much more than perpetuate, it doubles the poisonous teaching with each generation. I personally believe that it is more important as a species that we learn the most important of lessons. We must learn to negate the spread of the poisonous teaching of racism and the early indoctrination of the young by those who willfully and tragically harm their own children by teaching them the most horrible of lessons: it is perfectly acceptable, in fact preferable, and is your duty to reject teaching and knowledge that differs from what we teach you.

In other words, the continuation of willful ignorance and fostering the ‘us v. them’ mentality.

I encountered this teaching early in my life and confronted it in the teachings of the church with which I was affiliated. Separation into classes (income, race, sinner v. saved, etc.) perpetuates the idea that one is more evolved and better than another. In reading the article mentioned below, I found a quote attributed to Booker T. Washington that makes a phenomenally interesting and disturbing point:

“I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”
(My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience (1911), Chapter 5, Pg. 119-120)

As long as there is a reason for some to prosper by the suffering of others, as long as there is the ideal among the self-deluded, as long as there is a perceived benefit to the creation of ‘class’, the sad fact is that willful ignorance will continue can only be fought with teaching the lesson so forcefully brought to light by Jane Elliott’s exercise with her students – that real power exists in freeing the human race of this most heinous of poisons.

Real power rests in the hands of those willing to overcome their own fear. Power is not the ability to control others through repression; power is in fact the acceptance that these fears hold us back from becoming what we can be, from reaching our potential, and then forging a path that brings us toward truth and away from the teaching of hate.

Without being willing to understand our true faults, without standing against resistance of accepting uncomfortable truth and taking the responsibility for our education of both our children and ourselves to end this madness, those who insist on belief that fosters exclusion for some perceived ‘benefit’ will continue to foist this ‘education’ and inflict harm not only on our society but on the future.

My friend, thank you for your insight and your illumination.

[Link regarding the article in Smithsonian Magazine:]

‘Others have praised Elliott’s exercise. In Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Things, educational psychologist Michele Borda says it “teaches our children to counter stereotypes before they become full-fledged, lasting prejudices and to recognize that every human being has the right to be treated with respect.”’

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/…/lesson-of-a…/…




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