Just a Short One to Be Getting On With (more soon)

Much of the metaphorical language, in the struggle for racial equality, is that of violence, confrontation and conflict. There’s the language of argument: “speak out”, “Stand up to”, “challenge”, as well as the militaristic vocabulary of “struggle”, “campaign”, “resistance”, “strategy”, “Fight.” “Get angry. Anger is useful. Use it for good”, Reni Eddo-Lodge exhorts us[1]

These terms promote the idea of fighting the good fight, that it is your duty to confront and challenge, head on. When applied in practice, though, it is individual members of your own communities that you are confronting. They are likely to feel personally attacked and condemned. They are likely to be deeply wounded by the impression that you dislike them, personally, that you blame them, personally, for your misfortunes and this will make them resist your message. It will also encourage them to attack you, personally, for if you are an idiot, they can assume your accusations are nonsense. This will wound you, in your turn.

This is no way to persuade people, so your challenge must have some other goal. Presumably, this is to, somehow, utterly defeat them, to destroy their resistance so that they come over to your side as a sort of intellectually broken prisoner of war.     

This choice of vocabulary, then, continues deep hegemonies of tribal division, that are much older than racial theory[2]. They foster mind-sets and expectations that value conflict and destruction, victory and defeat, dominance, oppression and suppression: deep, ancient ur-narratives that may even bridge the gap between natural urges and social constructs – tales of single combat of triumph, dominance and power: the black-hatted gunman murders your wife and children, so you hunt him down and shoot him and all his allies, in revenge. And that gives you closure, and a happy ending, because, ultimately, Might is Right. 

[1] Why I’m no longer Talking to White People about Race, 2018, London: Bloomsbury, p221

[2] See Robert P Baird’s article in the Guardian, “The Invention of Whiteness”, 20/04/’21. He quotes WEB Du Bois, saying, “The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing – a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed.”

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