Becoming an Anti-Racist, Part Two
Dan and Wendell Moss continue their conversation about what it means to become an “anti-racist” by discussing the impact of white supremacy in unexpected places, the impact of assimilation into white evangelicalism, and policies that contribute to the disparity between white and black communities.
Dan opens the conversation, in light of a prior discussion about Ibram Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti Racist, by asking Wendell: What does it mean to become more and more an anti-racist?
Wendell: When I think about his words, I think there’s always a question: Can people of color be racist? There’s been a sense between black and light and dark African American … and realizing over the years that it is racism, yes and yet it is of a different hue. Because when I think about that kind of racism it comes from a construct of supremacy that has invited me to judge my own. The word we use is “plantation-trauma,” where even as an African American where I have been judged and my face has been erased has invited me to erase the people that even look like me, or are maybe slightly darker or lighter than me.
Wendell and Dan begin to have a conversation about white supremacy, and how it often doesn’t look like the images or groups we often associate with white supremacy. For instance, it could take place in a church setting or in the context of relationships with people who see themselves as non-racist. The people we learn from, the theologians we read, and the music we listen to in church are not often people of color, which limits us from learning about an entire world of theologians, pastors, and musicians.
Dan and Wendell also discuss the impact of an “assimilationist” gospel, where many African-Americans and people of color have bought into white evangelicalism in order to gain acceptance.
Wendell: We understand Jesus very clearly and we also understand Jesus in a way that is different from your tradition. The Jesus I grew up with was a Jesus who understood the oppressed … that Jesus understood the marginalized, but with white-centric theologians, it almost comes that he was the victor, and yet that he did not experience marginalization.
This segues into a conversation about the predominantly white system in which we live, which continues to gain immense financial and personal power. There was and is great disparity in resources between white people and people of color, such as benefits from the G.I. bill as well as in policies, voting, banking, schools, and many other organizations.
Wendell: Will you look systematically at policy and how it has been written into our laws, when you look at the inner city and ask: How did that happen? Will you be more curious? This goes back to the question of, will you educate yourself? That’s a huge part of being anti-racist.
Dan: What would you say is involved for you, but as well for me as a white man: What does it mean to be an anti-racist when it comes to policy?
Wendell: When I think about policy, I think about being able to investigate the history of your city. Being able to learn the history of your government and how policy was formed. When we see how it was formed we see who was in favor. We still see the beneficiaries of slavery … through banking, redlining, those systems have not gone away—they are ingrained in us.
One institution Dan and Wendell focus on in particular is the education system. For instance, there are tax codes that do not give the same educational opportunities to impoverished areas that often have higher populations of people of color. Students in these communities do not have the same opportunities or resources to afford higher education, which contributes to a recurring cycle of poverty and inequality.
Wendell: “What’s so important is: How can you be anti-racist in your sphere? How can I affect policy? […] Everyone has a place that they can reach, that’s right there, whether it be their families, friends, jobs, and so forth, so I think I want to use the great words you just used to say we can all move forward in being anti-racist and there are many platforms where that can be done.”
If you are interested in learning more about the intersection of trauma and race:
- Read Wendell’s recent blog, Collective Trauma.
- Listen to our three-part podcast series, Race & Trauma, from 2017 featuring members of The Allender Center Teaching Staff.