I read this yesterday and have been thinking about it ever since. As a justice-minded white guy, it didn’t only make me uncomfortable (which the author notes is often a good thing), I found it highly discouraging. I tweeted the author that it wasn’t okay to blanketly dismiss empathetic white people on the basis that our motivation comes from the wrong place. She replied that she didn’t care about my opinion and I should go F myself. Okay. Great.
In general as a human, it’s wrong to judge people’s motivation when that motivation is unknown to you. Judge people’s actions, yes. But apparently we sympathetic whites are “dabbling in the waters of thankless atonement,” so I guess if we see racism actively happening, the author wants us to stand down, lest our motivation for standing up be judged. No, we don’t feel entitled to gratitude for social justice work. We do, however, feel entitled to not be judged for doing so. Of course white privilege means we have a choice whether or not to engage — but for those of us who do make that choice, we ought not to be reprimanded by those who claim to know our individual personal motivations better than we do. “White guilt”? That’s exactly what white racists cry when they see other whites do SJ work.
The intro got the piece off on a terrible foot; while antagonizing the audience can be a good strategy, it was weak to criticize a movie she didn’t see and to blame its terrible qualities that she doesn’t know on people in meetings she didn’t attend (they must have been white because she heard the movie was bad). That kind of grasping is no way to establish an authoritative voice.
SURJ states it is “here to provide resources and support for white people to make [social-justice reform] happen.” The author morphed this into “providing resources and support for white people,” end quote. Those quotes mean two different and nearly opposed things; this, like the section on the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society that others have noted, is intellectually dishonest. I’d like to ask the author: If you suggest white people focus their attention “on pre-existing white spaces: their homes, their office buildings, their college campuses…” how are we supposed to know how to do that if we don’t share information amongst ourselves? Are we each expected to create the language, the analogies, the arguments out of pure morality? Perhaps so, but that’s a lot to ask, especially when there are resources we can share with each other. The author’s thesis seems to be that social justice will arrive faster if sympathetic members of the oppressive group don’t help each other out. Doesn’t work.
As a gay man I’m trying to imagine LGBTQ acceptance into society without welcoming the help and empathy of our straight/cis brothers and sisters. Should I tell them they’re only dabbling in alliance and support to assuage their straight guilt, so please just stop trying? Would I go around saying straights ruin everything, you’re only in it for personal accolades, so go F yourself? Never.