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It has truly been a marathon going through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour Spotting. Personally, I feel like I have learned some important elements of the circumstances we collectively have to face when looking at race in America, and I hope they will help me when I talk about these issues again, either here on this blog, or elsewhere. It's important that we stay positive, try not to personally blame people, but work to give them an understanding of racism from the perspective of people who experience it and to hope that they will care, and will help as well.

Today's topic is more than appropriate as we head towards the end of this series of thinkposts.

28) Exhaustion and Despair - Sound the Retreat

“I’m exhausted. I’m only one person. I can stop and rest for a while.” or “Racism is so pervasive and entrenched, there just isn’t any hope.”


Reality Check and Consequence

Despair is a real enemy of anti-racists. If our commitment is a lifelong one, we must find ways to mitigate the effects. Neither burn-out nor desertion are of any use to the struggle. We can remember men who jumped on a “Take Back the Night” bandwagon, challenging violence against women - for a while. Until the attention on them as good men waned. Until the “glamour” of the issue faded. One of the historical, repeated failures of “liberals” in social justice movements has been their short-term and inconsistent commitment to the “issue du jour.

If we quit, for any reason, we are engaging our “default option.” (5) As white people, we can rest, back off, and take a break from the frustration and despair of anti-racism work. There will be no significant consequence to us for this retreat. White people will not think less of us. Racism doesn’t allow such a respite for people of color. One of the elemental privileges of being white is my freedom to retreat from the issue of racism. If things get too tough I can always take a break. And our work against racism doesn’t get done.


Ms. Olsson raises the point that really is crucial when it comes to white anti-racists: they can just take a break. Really, white people don't have to do any work toward changing attitudes or beliefs at all. In fact some would likely think that trying to help minorities might do damage to their status and cause them to be in a worse position because of it.

This is the common problem involved in trying to eliminate the institution of racism: there is a segment of people that completely believe it is beneficial. But really, even if you are the person shooting and killing someone, I presume you have to realize that you took the life of another human being, assuming you think of black people as humans, and that might weigh on your mind occasionally. So, yes, drinking from the fountain of racism might quench your thirst, but there's obviously lead in that water.

It's tough for most people to ignore the scenario that was painted all these years. It's much more easy to fall into the established patterns and behaviors. It actually takes work to get out of this sewer we've been in all this while. And, most of the time, nobody is going to work very hard to try to break the routine. So, that leaves the heavy lifting to the people who are committed, and most of those people are brown, because they're the ones being impacted by all of this.

We really need more white anti racists who understand that preventing racism will benefit everyone in our society. We need people who are willing to work with those that don't understand these points and could benefit from a clearer explanation. We have to communicate with each other, stay in touch with each other, continue to tell our truths and demand justice.

It's tough to fight a system that is as well-established and as carefully streamlined as racism is in the United States. It's understandable that even people who are completely on board with this concept might not always be there to do that work. The situation evolves; we all have our own personal problems and life issues to deal with on a daily basis.

But the world takes its sociological cues from the USA, and we need to be the standard bearers in demonstrating that we value every person. We have to value every person. Because nobody knows who each person will become. And we want every person to become the best they can possibly be. Just imagine helping each person become their ultimate selves. What sort of country NO! What sort of planet would that be?

I firmly believe that if we ever hope to achieve world peace, this is how it will begin. Because if we cannot communicate with, listen to, and work to help everyone within the borders of our own country, there is no chance that we could do the same with people we call "foreigners." To me, that would be reason enough for all of us to start working to correct racism. We can't get tired out now.




Previous thinkposts in this series:


1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
25. Day 25 - The Accountant
26. Day 26 - Innocence
27. Day 27 - Silence

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