Friday, February 29, 2008

"Trepagnier believes all white people harbor some racist thoughts and feelings."

I heard this interview yesterday morning on our local NPR affiliate. It's unclear whether the quoted passage above is KUT's summary or whether it actually represents Dr. Trepagnier's thoughts -- she doesn't seem to make this broad categorical statement in the interview or on her website promoting her book Silent Racism.

It's that broad categorical statement that bothers me, since it seems so circular. Racism is, at its crudest, the attribution of attitudes, aptitudes, or qualities to every member of a group based solely on that group's perceived race.

Here's an easy example: "All white people harbor some racist thoughts and feelings."

How much more we would benefit from an open discussion of the genuine complexities of institutional racism. KUT's gloss instead encourages people to black-box the issue and set it aside, or to focus on individual interventions at the expense of systemic change. Telling people that something is in their essential nature is hardly the best way to spur such change.

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