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I AM A MEMBER OF THE type of organization derided in Washington City Paper‘s “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being”(11/12). Our group, DCLARE, D.C. White Lesbians and Bi Women Against Racism Everywhere, has two purposes. We seek to educate ourselves and our community of white lesbian, gay, and bisexual people on issues of racism, and to be allies to people of color. It is precisely the attitudes presented in your scattered and cynical piece that make our work crucial.
With the problems of racism in our city, it was a disappointment to read an article that demeaned the attempts of organizations and businesses to create a more inclusive environment by attempting to create dialogue and guidelines for behavior. Instead of focusing on the hard questions of tokenism or behavior changes, City Paper opted for a trite sneer at the PC Police.
The specter of “authoritarian re-education camps as practiced by the Spanish Inquisition or the modern-day government of China” will permit many white people to avoid learning more about racism and searching for opportunities to discuss diversity. Those remaining white people who found your lack of serious concern with racism in our culture and who would welcome the opportunity to be challenged to consider racism in their own lives would find these diversity trainings educational and rewarding.
It is precisely this lack of responsible dialogue that we as white people avoid when dealing with racism. Many of us deride the Klan or David Duke, but fail to see how our own behavior and assumptions, in everything from our employment situation to our friendships, may result from deeply-instilled racist beliefs. Unlike the hostile and skittish white men depicted in the article, I think many white people do want some clues on interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. Learning some basic rules allows one to avoid some uncomfortable gaffes such as inviting Jewish and Muslim friends to share a Christmas ham. Taking such “group” knowledge into account does not make the other person less than human. Instead, such information may help prevent those who want to from saying “mean, stupid things just because they’re white guys.”
City Paper continues, “There is not a damn thing he [the white male] can do about it”—that, due to being a white male, he has no control or responsibility for his own racism, racist thoughts, or ability to oppress others. This statement misses the whole point of the power and role of white people. White people can and should practice anti-racism. In fact, DCLARE takes the obligation to “do something” very seriously. We do not indulge in guilt trips or pronounce ourselves “racism free” after our meetings. Instead, we take action. DCLARE focuses on continued discussion and concerted action with people of color groups, recruitment and volunteer work at events organized by people of color, and issues important to lesbian and gay people of color groups in our activities. Support for these issues and organizations should be increased.
Your article states that competency now equals the ability to interact respectfully with diverse groups of people. The same could be said for your paper. This article did a grave disservice to the people of Washington, D.C.
Carol Wayman, Washington, D.C.