This reflection was written by Roseanne after week 3 of the antiracism circle.
It’s difficult to write a reflection for Session 3. I mean, it was tough to see and hear the people who had been directly harmed so deeply by the government-sanctioned Native American boarding schools. That is what is at the forefront of my mind, their suffering.
For me, each anti-racism session links up with the readings and previous sessions and creates some understanding, but also lots of confusion. Yes, I see systemic racism, foundational racism present in our history, imbedded into our laws and government policies, and yet, I still also want to see people as people, too. Even thinking of the Founding Fathers as a monolith of “whites” doesn’t sit well (hello- our first three presidents — George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were completely different people, with widely different personalities, priorities, and interests).
We as an anti-racism training group have already discussed how race is not scientifically sound, is only as real as we make it in our minds – and yet, our reading material includes “The White Racial Frame,” a book that we seem to be using as somewhat of an authority, though it is a single argument put forth by a white author. (I know he is an acclaimed researcher, but you have to see the irony, too.) Even though I know this is typical of sociology, sometimes I resent Feagin’s reliance on groupings like “whites” “Latinos” “blacks” –-especially in later chapters when dealing with non-white frames, it seems way too simplistic and way less fulfilling than the world I see in front of me that has been influenced by meditation practice….How am I to get to this place of new sight and new vocabulary when I am being dragged down by these simplistic sociological groupings? I’m not sure. I have so many people in my life who come from mixed backgrounds, who don’t fall into Feagin’s groupings….Even Buddhism’s focus on the suffering and end of suffering of all people seems to hold more truth for me. I think it is a question of the spiritual clashing with social science…
The trainings have created a lot of outstanding questions and not a lot of answers; I guess all I can do is share what has struck me most so far about the sessions so far:
People really do see the world differently. I have been surprised by how people are just now engaging with ideas that (as a non-white person) I have always been thinking of, ways of seeing I took for granted that nearly everyone was also thinking about. I know too that my own mentality and frame is also not accounting for many aspects of life and humanity.
In an earlier session someone said that people of color are not just thought of as people, but as ideas. This has really been a profound insight. It explains why I am so confused about what is going on during some of my interactions with people. I can’t quite gather what in the interaction is “off”, but I think often enough, it may have to do with me not matching another person’s idea of how I should be.
It reminds me of being on silent meditation retreats. You get all these ideas of how the people you see will be, and then at the end of the retreat, when it is time to break silence, you realize you were totally and utterly wrong. For instance, people speak with accents you never imagined (how could you know they weren’t American?). On one silent retreat, I was convinced that my roommate hated me, but when we broke silence, the first thing she did was run across the hall to tell me I was the best roommate she ever had and then, offered to give me a ride home.
On retreat, we see clearly how baseless many of our thoughts are. So, what a shame if racism is the acting out of these totally flawed ideas in one’s head to the greatest degree. And how terrible that majority groups ingrained these ideas into the fabric of our country in seemingly inextricable ways. The three-fifths compromise just kills me… Those Native American boarding schools – what was it that these innocent children represented to those in power that was so unacceptable? In each disappointing instance of history mentioned in the course readings, I see how the “new concept of race” served a purpose. Usually as it is laid out here, this often had something to do with economics, had something to do with people wanting to hold onto and/or expand their wealth and power. I started to track the “purposes race served” in the readings with my pencil, and then eventually scribbled in the margins: Will it ever be possible to have a country where the concept of race no longer serves a purpose?