The Curmudgeon Opines on Anti-racism Training

Right now we are in the last phases of the required anti-racism training in our diocese.  This last phase is meant to pick up the curmudgeons like me who are resisting because it will be our umpteenth anti-racism training, and there is a point of diminishing returns that set in quite a while ago.  Besides, I’ve decided it’s not about race at all, it’s about culture.

I’m not sure how to describe what I mean by the word culture.  Eric Law, who does a lot of training in this field and has written several very fine books on the subject, is the one to turn to for that.  But it seems to me to do with a very complex combination of ethnic heritage and ethos with which one is identified by others and in which one self-identifies, as well as the color of one’s skin and other physical traits.  Yet it’s more than that.  There has to be some authenticity to the ethnic identity one has for one’s self, and I suspect that authenticity has to be endorsed by other members of the group.  For instance, we went through a period where it was cool to claim some American Indian heritage, but unless the elders and members of a given tribe backed up that claim, it was a silly charade at best and terribly insulting at worst.  Or, take me as another example.  I can honestly claim to be Celtic on just about every side as far back as one can go, but whatever cultural ethos that might involve is lost to history.  I may find it a curiosity to delve into for the fun of it, but my cultural ethos is just plain North American European with a heavy dose of Lake Wobegone, Minnesota.

With that in mind, I think we need to get away from anti-racism training and start more serious training in learning more about the ethnic cultures that make up America with an emphasis on those who have and continue to be denied a full measure of American membership by those of us who have always been in control of the membership committee.  Moreover, learning about must also mean learning to respect, learning that fullness of membership does not mean becoming ersatz North American Europeans from Minnesota, and learning how to engage one another in ways that work for and with one another. It also means needing to give up our predisposition to make unwarranted assumptions about the ethnic identity and cultural ethos of others.  I’m particularly sensitive to that since my own family includes so many different ethnicities and skin tones.  Love and sex have a way to making that happen.

So, with that in mind, I’ll finally go to one of the anti-racism workshops and do my best to suffer through it, but I don’t have to like it. 

4 thoughts on “The Curmudgeon Opines on Anti-racism Training”

  1. Some interesting ideas and openings for \”conversation\” here CP.I would say the problem with most anti ism training that I have encountered is that it is really more of a, how to put this,,,well, it goes one of two ways, \”I am superior and like an adult will tolerate and find curious joy in your quaint ways\” or \”our ways are so f*d up if we would only look at the way your backward culture holds the truth we could see perfection\” Either way these training\’s tend to still leave a nagging sense of difference. I do have a problem with our \”cultural\” sensitivity however. I have encountered this mostly with the issue of women\’s rights. And yes, I believe that there will be no equality amongst humans until we can see women as absolute equals. I find most \”cultural\” issues have to do with the way things were done in the past, in the old days in the old land. I will admit, I get very angry and sad and puzzled when I see a girl of high school age take the burqa or hibab (sp?). Is it purely a cultural insensitivity on my part? I believe not, however I am sure that there is a training that will point out that it is. I get upset because I can only think, What does this say about the place and character of women and men? When a girl chooses to live this way, why? what is the motivation? I think these are questions that we have to ask with all cultural \”traditions\” and compare with the ideals of who we are as a nation, not who we are, but who we want to be, where do we want to go, and how do we want our people to become. And we have to have the convictions that what we desire is better than what was, is now, and work towards those goals.I was looking at a copy of the Philadelphia newspaper from 1776 when the declaration of independence was posted for the populace. On the opposite page were ads for indentured servants, and slaves. Stark contrast of reality and ideals, on one side was cultural norm, reality of the way things are, were. On the other was new thought, hope, ideals. Maybe for me this all boils down to the language used and the ideals behind the words, anti, ism, the words of battle, warfare, conflict entrenchment. I think perhaps I desire words of education truth and hope, moving forward with a new vision.So much of these \”sensitivity training\’s\” lead to the absurd. A parish I used to belong to changed the words in the readings to avoid \”causing pain\” to members of the congregation. So it was decided that the word \”slave\” would be washed from the bible, it was changed to workers, and to further eliminate discomfort \”master\” was changed to house owner.

  2. I haven\’t done \”anti-racism training\” but I\’ve seen what passes for \”diversity training\” at Whitman College here in Walla Walla. In a 12 page manual the word \”imagination\” or any of its cognates was not to be found. But there was lots of \”code\” talk and formulas of one kind or another to be memorized.So what happens when you learn how to recognize by code and apply the correct formula to what is a literally superficial aspect of being human? Well, you feel good about yourself. Encoded good conscience.Then imagine inviting a perfect stranger into your own home. Then make that stranger a leper.Academics prefer the comfort of their own encoded good consciences.

  3. Bruno, you have put into words much of what i feel about this stuff. ThanksTom, the reaction on campus seems to be almost unanimous.Thanks both for wading in on this

  4. This post AND your commenters are very powerful. Bruno\’s first two \”ism\” definitions really are so on the mark for me! And, Tom\’s, comment re now make the guest a \”leper\” is equally a strong statement provoking a deeper examination of one\’s own feelings and actions.

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