Are racism and sexism inevitable? Not according to activist and author Chris Crass.
Crass spoke in Battle Creek on November 13th at two events sponsored by Kellogg Community College's Center for Diversity and Innovation. Before those events he spoke with WMUK's Andy Robins
Crass says collective liberation means drawing white people into the fight for racial justice, and men into efforts to end sexism. He says it's a
"vision for multiracial democracy and economic justice for all."
To make that vision a reality, Crass says white people need to realize that they have a stake in eliminating racism, and that men are also hurt when women are victims of discrimination and violence.
Crass sees racism as an invention of the powerful to keep the others divided and powerless. He says it prevents poor and working class whites from seeing that their economic and social interests are the same as those of their neighbors of color. Crass calls it a "death culture" that "turns white peoples' capacity for love into an engine of hate and resentment." And he says it creates a "conveyer belt" that forces white people into supporting inequality and discrimination, sometimes unconciously. Fighting that, Crass says, requires a new kind of leadership in white communities.
Learning about the legacy of racism can seem overwhelming to many white people who oppose it, Crass says. That can lead to anger, guilt, and shame. But Crass says there is also a long heritage of whites fighting against racism that should also be acknowledged. He sees that as "organizing from a place of love" that recognizes that racism subverts everyone's humanity.
Crass says that process does not mean ignoring the effects of white privilege. He says there's evidence of that everyday, for example the differences in the way white people are treated by police and the courts, and they way minority communities experience those institutions. But Crass says reflexively telling poor and working class whites to "check your privilege" is often counter-productive since they usually don't feel especially "privileged" economically, socially, or politically. Crass says the main focus should be on changing the system that creates the problem. Crass says,
"I, as an anti-racist, want to be communicating a vision of economic justice and multi-racial democracy for all that can really resonate with and move white peoples' hearts and minds in a way that connects to this collective liberation movement, and doesn't make white people feel like they're just obstructionists to justice, and the only role they can play is to stop being such haters."
He says whites should realize that the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement are part of the struggle for human dignity that helps everyone. Crass says the fight against violence against women is too.