Confronting Racism

 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Social Activist for Racial Equity

Facilitating Discussions about Racism

 

617-462-6642

gbigonet@icloud.com

           

 

Good/Bad Binary

 

"When we can stop denying the duality of racist and antiracist, we can take an accurate

accounting of the racial ideals and policies we support. For the better part of my life 

I have held both racist and antiracist ideas, supported both racist and antiracist policies;

I've been antiracist in one moment, racist in many more moments" 

Ibram X. Kendi

 

The Good/Bad Binary is probably the strongest driver of White Fragility. The Good/Bad Binary is simple. Racism is bad. We can all agree with that. The logic then goes that those who are racist are bad people and those who are not racist are good people. The Good/Bad Binary sees the definition of racism as one defined by individuals who are either racist or not racist as opposed to a social system structure that gives white people privileges over and suppresses people of color. The narrow definition of the good/bad binary of racists as identities of individuals makes it impossible for most white people to look at their racist predispositions or tendencies because if they were to admit such predispositions or tendencies then they'd be labeling/announcing that they are in fact racist and a bad person. No normal healthy person ever wants to be a bad person so such an admission becomes impossible. Robin DiAngelo adds that "If as a white person. I conceptualize racism as a binary and I place myself on the 'not racist' side, what further action is required of me? No action is required because I am not a racist. Therefore racism is not my problem."

 

Because of this dynamic the paradigm of the good/bad binary supports racism by creating a paradigm where no white person can honestly look at their racists tendencies. If we cannot look at how we support the system of racism then we cannot really change anything about the racial forces around us.

 

My Reflections on the Good/Bad Binary 

 

I have noticed for years how good people around me would sometimes act out in a racist manner and when confronted on it would strongly defend how they're not a racist. I knew each of these people were generally good people and in no way held the opinions or attitudes of skin heads or any other racist groups. I could also see how their actions were racist. I never knew how to reconcile these two truths. Now I see that I was making the same error that many people make that individuals are either racist or not racist. I had no concept of racism as a spectrum without outright racists who hate people of color on one end and people who unknowingly hold racial biases that support the system of racism on the other end. Please note I did not say one end of the spectrum were non-racists. If you are a white person in this world then you have been influenced by the racist structure that has been in place for hundreds of years and it is impossible for any of us not to have some racist tendencies or predispositions.

 

Getting an understanding of this has been greatly freeing to me. Ever since I attended Lesley College for my MA in counseling have I had an awareness of my racial programming and tendencies. I'd notice the thoughts that would come into my mind when I'd see people of color and I would work to change those thoughts to those that I chose and truly believed but the thoughts would always continue. I'd notice the discomfort and fear I'd feel in different situations when interacting with people of color and I'd feel ashamed of those reactions and tell myself I was safe and didn't need to feel that discomfort but I'd continue to feel it.

 

It wasn't until I had a good understanding of the Good/Bad Binary that things started to change for me. I felt the freedom to share with others more about my thoughts and tendencies and how they affected me and to my great surprise I found many of these automatic subconscious reactions disappear. For example I have never considered interracial relationships to be wrong in anyway but whenever I'd see a couple where one partner was white and one was black I would get this immediate feeling in my bones that they're relationship was wrong. I didn't believe it but I'd always have that response and felt horrible about it. Shortly after beginning this journey of becoming an anti-racist I shared with a white woman who used to be married to a black man about this bodily reaction I have and the shame I feel and how much I've struggled with it. I was able to share this without shame or guilt. I expressed it as just one way I notice my own racist biases. Then the most amazing thing happened for me. I was walking down the street and saw a biracial couple and I didn't have that old response. I felt ease with their couplehood. I started to notice the same ease within myself everytime I saw a biracial couple and haven't had that reaction since.

 

Having addressed it openly and without shame helped me let go of this horrible reaction that I had had most of my life. I've noticed this with other biases I've done the same with and I'm now clear that the more we talk about racism with eachother without the good person/bad person view the more we can do to free ourselves of our thoughts and behaviors that do so much harm to people of color. 

Copyright © 2020   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.