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If you haven't been following along, I've been taking a good long look at Jona Olsson's "Detour-Spotting" essay, where she lays out every single excuse white people have for not confronting their participation in perpetuating racism, and how that has ostensibly prevented any significant forward progress, despite things like the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and the election of the First African American President of the United States.

Ms. Olsson wrote this essay for people like her, white folks who have no stomach for racist actions and attitudes, because even within the desire to repair and reassemble our country with the novel thought that all of us are created equal, there is a systematic element within our country that helps prevent even the most staunch and determined anti-racist from making any inroads away from How Things Are.

Today, we're examining another in the list.

5) The White Knight or White Missionary

“We (white people) know just where to build your new community center.” or “Your young people (read youth of color) would be better served by traveling to our suburban training center.” or “We (white people) organized a used clothing drive for you, where do you want us to put the clothes?”

Reality Check and Consequence

It is a racist, paternalistic assumption that well meaning white people know what’s best for people of color. Decisions, by white people, are made on behalf of people of color, as though they were incapable of making their own. This is another version of “blame the victim” and white is right. It places the problems at the feet of people of color, and the only “appropriate” solutions with white people. Once more the power of self-determination is taken away from people of color. Regardless of motive, it is still about white control.

This one is far from the worst offense on our list, but it is clearly problematic for a couple of obvious reasons. First, the white people in question are looking to both control a circumstance and, presumably, be rewarded for their efforts. They are coming in to "save" black people whom they view as not capable of handling their circumstances. The term "patronizing" comes to mind. But it also speaks to a mindset that has, at heart, an overarching sense that black people are like children that must be given things or must be treated in a manner other than full fledged humans. On that point alone, this sort of thinking can do tremendous damage.

Keep in mind, the people who might be involved in a scenario like this are as well-meaning and likely as full of good intentions as anyone could be. But again, unintentional racism doesn't make the action any less racist.

The fact is, most of the issues that pepper this list could be resolved with relative ease if the people who are working as white anti-racists would simply see and understand that they don't see and understand black people as being at all like they are. This is rooted in neighborhood enclaves where only white people live and office scenarios where only white people work. If you aren't around any black people, or even just a tiny handful, you really have no concept of who they are, what they do, how they act or what they want. It's pretty much impossible to prove the kind of person you are when you are never there. That's what we're talking about when it comes to racism.

Again, most of these issues are not A + B = C. It's a bit more challenging and a bit more arcane. That means that people may not be willing or able to follow along, and that continues to help prevent a suitable resolution, even among people who are trying to participate. With so many ways to go wrong, how can any of this work out right?

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


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 28th, 2016 09:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading along, Brooke!
Jul. 31st, 2016 01:15 pm (UTC)
These articles have made for interesting reading.
Aug. 1st, 2016 12:53 am (UTC)
Glad you're here, C!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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