White racism is a systemic phenomenon that is deeply woven in the fabric of our society and has a corrosive effect on the minds, bodies and souls of all Americans, including white people. Dealing justly with American racism means that white Americans must come to terms with the historical legacy of inequality inherited from their forbears. This means partaking in a thorough review of the United States as a nation founded (in part) on racist principles. We tend to underestimate the impact of systemic white racism, rationalizing it as an individual affair rather than a system of oppression involving 246 years of slavery and 90 years of Jim Crow for roughly 85 percent of our existence as a nation.
One of the reasons I fought so much with my colleagues at Syracuse University is because I was told that my advocacy for black men made me something less of a legitimate scholar than my colleagues. If I was on CNN talking about black males, there would be no mention of it, even though my colleagues would get accolades for appearing in the local news. Of course it was easy to ignore the criticism, since I was trained by some of the best scholars in the world in my field and determined to bring my expertise back to my community. Also, the fact that my business school has not tenured one single black finance professor in over 100 years of existence speaks to the awesome wall of blinding racial inequality that had been built over several decades. In other words, racism makes people stupid.
There have been other less progressive arguments resulting from Schutte’s article. One in particular posed by Andile Mngxitama and Athi-Nangamso Esther Nkopo in “There’s no unlearning whiteness, despite what “anti-racists” say”, holds a very regressive and somewhat contradictory argument that white people cannot engage (even among themselves) in critical dialogue about the race question because as inherent beneficiaries of white racism, any contributions that they make are bound to be an affront to the black struggle against the conditions created by the very existence of whiteness.
The two “Black Consciousness activists” argue Schutte’s article is reflective of her “liberal” agenda, which seeks to neutralise the race discourse by taking on a paternalistic approach. They go on to argue that Schutte’s appeals to the white community end with the acknowledgement of their guilt without really giving constructive solutions on how to dismantle and obliterate the structural and institutionalised white racist realities that have been entrenched by centuries of colonialism and apartheid. The issue of Schutte being married to a black man and having a mixed child also receives mention but because such arguments that seek to attack a person rather than an idea must never be dignified with a response, I will not delve into it, only focus on the former.
In a response to Gillian Schutte’s article, “Dear White People,” author Jackie Shandu writes:
The letter says “Dear White People”. A white person writes to fellow white settlers to discuss their collective and unique problem of race privilege, supremacy and racism. Very well. This is precisely what Biko taught us, that the work of white anti-racists is in the white communities — they need to talk each other out of racial arrogance while we blacks talk each other out of self-hatred. Later we meet as equals, to decide on the kind of South Africa we want to build — if whites are interested. Biko reprimands white liberals out of black communities and reminds them they can’t have it both ways: gladly accept exclusive race privileges but also moonlight as anti-racists. The blatant hypocrisy is out there for everyone to see: accept skin-colour benefits and repeatedly vote back into power that racism machinery, yet make an empty claim to non-racism.
I welcomed Gillian’s letter because I thought she would create an alternative space for white activists who are crowding and collapsing the black struggle. I thought at last we would have white people talking among themselves about their issues, as opposed to the dominant practice of imposing themselves on black initiatives while their stomachs and purses are full of white privilege.
One parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the course teaches her child to feel guilty. ”It’s meant to divide and victimize non-whites and condition whites to feel guilty and to be more passive,” the parent said. Another parent added, “They’re teaching white guilt. They’re dividing the students. They’re saying to non-whites, ‘You have been oppressed and you’re still being oppressed.’”