At the 2008 Call to Action conference, I was blown away by all of the community I felt. I was also blown away by the pervasive racism in progressive communities. I live in a progressive community, so I see the well-meaning racist thing all of the time. I pull it all of the time. It doesn’t make me a better white person. There’s a great article at New Demographic about whether it’s better to call someone out for being racist or admit that you’re racist yourself. While admitting that I’m racist, I am going to call out. This is old news, but it is better than nothing.
I’m tired of the idea that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend discussed in her plenary at the conference – that racism is dead now that Barack Obama is president. I’m tired of hearing that the “black man” stole from “the woman.” I’m tired of hearing that black churches have more sexism. See Townsend’s comment about “trying to talk about the female God in an African American church” and the audience laughing.
Maybe my rub with social justice work in general, because I live in social justice city, is the whole solidarity with the poor thing. Hello, just because you gave up all of your possessions or dared!! to go to Africa or the South Side of Chicago to “teach the rest of the world” about oppressions there doesn’t mean you’re in solidarity. There is a smugness with it all that I don’t like. I hear it a lot in Catholic social justice work and mainstream progressive Catholic dialog. At the conference, it was most prominent in Edwina Gately’s talk – where she dared to hear a voice from God to go to Africa (They live in huts! And they’re black! God called me to them so I can show the rest of the world that religion is too small!) Why do the rescuers always get the credit? Why do they get rewarded for their white man’s burden? I mean yes, there is serious organizing happening in the South Side of Chicago, but still. I think this whole thing, though, springs back to the community that I felt. A community of people who are and can be moved to make changes. A community that changes and evolves.