Glenn Bigonet, M.A.
Social Activist for Racial Equity
Facilitating Discussions about Racism
"At this point, the only thing needed for racism
to continue is for good people to do nothing"
White Apathy is basically white people not caring enough to put in the effort to confront racism or get involved with antiracism work. There are many rationalizations for it but the end result is that we don't do anything or do very little to address racism because we have more important things to do or we don't feel like it's our problem because we're not racist so we don't have any power to change it. The end result is that because of white apathy we do nothing and stay silent. As a result we support the white supremist status quo in our society.
Layla Saad clarifies this point by saying "White Supremacy is telling you not to fight for what is right, not to involve yourself in the dismantling of a system that benfits you, because if you do, you will lose everything that makes you who you think you are - a person who is conditioned to believe you are superior to people of other races. The conditioned mind wants to cling to what it knows and what has kept it safe, even at the risk of harming other people in the process." (p. 132)
Layla's statement above is a hard pill to swallow but I believe she is right on. We are so unconsciously programmed into white supremist thinking that most of us don't even notice it. To truly do the work of antiracism we have to have the courage to look our white supremist bias in the face and see it for what it is and acknowlege the ways we benefit and gain from privilege because of it.
How Does White Apathy Show Up?
Saad lists examples of how white apathy shows up that I find particularly poignant. (p.130-131) They are as follows:
My Experience of White Apathy
As I write in my racial identity and history page I was stuck in a place of white apathy for most of my life. Even after I learned more about racism I still felt parlyzed and disempowered to address it. I still bought in to the idea that racism was an individual stance and I did not understand that racism was a system of opression that we all participate in. I knew I had racist programming and I did my best to notice it and reprogram myself to not have it but I did nothing to learn more about racism. I didn't think there was anything else that I could do, so I did nothing with the exception of pointing it out in others and complaining about it but that, in essence, did nothing to change anything.
At the same time I would tell my clients that in their relationships that they had no power to change their partner, which they didn't. I would then tell them that the only thing they could do was look at how they were contributing to the problems in their relationship and change their own behaviors. That is the only place where any of us have any power in the world. The paradox of it all is that if we change how we are being with our partner then they have to change because the old pattern between us no longer exists and they have to adjust to our new way of being. I can't tell you how many times I've explained that to my clients all the while I wasn't seeing that, yes, I can't change the racist behaviors of others but if I look at my own racist thinking and understand racism as a cultural system then I can change racism by learning more about how I truly contribute to it.
|Copyright © 2020 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.|