lbo-talk-digest V1 #200

Michael Shaughnessy mshaughnessy at
Thu Jul 2 14:13:13 PDT 1998

Wojtek says,
>I am well aware of the fact that many whites have quite negative attitudes
>toward blacks simply because of their skin color. I also know that many
>blacks have negative attitudes toward whites. I may also add that similar
>prejudices exist against virtually any group, Catholics, Jews, Muslims,
>Eastern or Southern Europeans, Irish, you name it.

This minimizes racism and equates it with personal prejudice which might or might not by systemically supported. Racism is best defined as prejudice and power. As a high school teacher in a multi-cultural, upper-middle class, Jesuit prep school, I hear unsophisticated (primarily white) adolescents use the type of comparison used above.

Those of us who are anti-racist must help identify the structural supports of both personal attitudes (prejudices) and inter-personal actions (discrimination) and continually point them out so that the structures do not continue to benefit one race at the expense of (an)other(s).

>I also think that the world would be a better place if people did not have
>such attitudes. However, I think that we have more urgent problems to
>solve than changing people's attitudes - like eliminating gross economic

This assumes they are unrelated.

>To be frank, I do not mind people cracking Polack- or Kike- jokes (although
>I still think cracking ethnic jokes is rude) as long as I can get
>employment at places like Johns Hopkins. In the same vein, sexist
>attitudes toward women are certainly deplorable, but instead of changing
>the locker-room manners, a much more fruitful strategy is to enforce the
>equal pay for equal work rule, or equal employment opportunity. Ditto for
>racist attitudes.
>As I see it, a political struggle must focus on a goal that is unambiguous,
>attainable and has a matrial effect. Focusing on psychological phenomena,
>such as racist attitudes, appears to me like a terrible waste of energy,
>almost like substituting the ideal for the real - which is how religion
>copes with miserable living conditions.

This diminishes the reality that my students experience and is condescending (as well as something I hear too many white folks say). It is not reflective of anyone I know who actually works with people in struggles for justice.

Michael Shaughnessy

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