Heat and Light... Fear of Consciousness Raising?

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Jun 26 22:56:33 PDT 1998

Maggie writes:
>one more reason for recognizing and encouraging organizations by gender, race,
>ethnicity, etc. is the ability of, and need for, groups to raise their own
>consciousness. frequently there is a lack of recognition by a groups' own
>members of the problems of the group. f'rinstance, as much as the law and
>social custom held slaves captive in the south, the slaves themselves
>participated to a certain extent in their own oppression -- as do women, as
>did the jews in germany, etc...........

I agree with Maggie on the importance of consciousness raising. The oppressed must recognize the nature of our oppression, name it, theorize it, and act on the theory to change the social relations that produce it, in the process freeing ourselves from the Master's worldview that denies, rationalizes, or justifies the existence of oppressive social relations and ideologies. Every step of the way, those who are invested (materially and/or psychologically) in racism, sexism, etc. would try to control our thoughts and actions, _whether or not they are aware of doing so_. Hence the imperative for autonomous organizing.

Also, when we have only very mixed fora for discussion of class, race, gender, etc., we never seem to be able to advance our theory beyond the basics (e.g. 'racism, sexism, etc. undermine working-class solidarity'), since our intellectual energy and time are constantly wasted in our (often futile) attempts to 'talk to' those who are not even interested in listening to, much less learning anything from, us.

The fear of consciousness raising Carrol detects in the BRC thread is born of a potential loss of white male authority--a possible disappearance of his ability to dictate what we think and do.

For those who think that this fear is a problem only in the 'separatist/nationalist' imagination (whatever it is), here's what Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote on the 'white paternalism':

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. ('Letter from Birmingham Jail')

_Across the political spectrum_, from reformist to revolutionary, nationalist to radical integrationist, in the past and the present, the oppressed have faced resistance from white males when we attempted to even question, not to mention change, the social relations and ideologies that put them above others. White guys on the Left (liberal or marxist), on the whole, have not been free of the desire to perpetuate the white male _leadership_ in theory and practice. A particularly virulent variety of this desire is manifest in left cons.

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