'The New Racism is the Old Racism'

Beyond Racial 'Diversity' and 'Color Blindness' There's 'Equity'

Sometimes the road to racial justice can feel like it's paved with
the coldest of stones, riddled with torturous twists and turns that
seemingly lead to nowhere. It gets even harder when the powers that be
construct divisive forks in that road, forcing advocates of the
marginalized to diverge from the powerful tide of social change only to
be emptied into more easily manipulated dis-tributaries. But if one
took away anything from the closing plenary at Facing Race in Chicago this year, it was that the hope of 2008 remains. (Check out video highlights below and on YouTube.)

The conference, organized by our publisher the Applied Research Center,
closed on Saturday afternoon by bringing together four progressive
heavyweights: Van Jones from the Center for American Progress, Voto
Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar, anti-racist activist and author Tim Wise
and Rinku Sen, the executive director of Applied Research Center and
publisher of ColorLines. You can get watch the full session at ARC.org/FacingRace.

Connecting past to present is the first step for the movement to
understand where it must go from here, said Wise. Bringing the
inequities of the past to the present condition is key to understanding
what steps racial justice advocates have to take to move forward said
Wise about the xenophobia targeted at Muslims and unauthorized
immigrants that is sweeping the country. "We've been down this road
before," he said of about the xenophobia targeted at Muslims
and undocumented immigrants this summer. "It's the continual resurgence
of nativist stuff. This is not the new racism; it's the old racism."

Wise also urged white liberals to let go of their discomfort in
looking past class alone when addressing inequity. Getting white
progressives to see that their "racial indifference is another form of
white supremacy" is one way to transform what he calls "aspring white
allies" into actual allies. He also noted that framing racial justice as
a way to "save our humanity" can be appealing to whites who often see
race as either irrelevant or threatening.

Sen pointed out another common blind spot for white liberals: the
idea that diversity is the key to leveling the field. "Diversity is not
equity," said Sen.

On bridging the gaps between oppressed people of every creed,
panelists urged organizations to build longer lasting relationships with
one another, so that their collective power is enduring--not just rising
during election time and disappearing.
"This struggle isn't about trying to win on Election Day," said Jones.
"It's about trying to win every single day."

In the end all panelists championed hope as the most powerful weapon
in the fight for equity. Of rough roads ahead, Jones reminded us that
"our opponents aren't acting this way because we suck. They are acting
this way because we are powerful."

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