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February 3, 2020 4:12 PM   Subscribe

 
I'm 100% serious - if you want me to yell at you about being racist I will do it - sometimes for free. If you want me to gently coddle you into maybe being less blatantly racist, well, that costs more.
posted by arabidopsis at 4:13 PM on February 3 [51 favorites]


And then there's Ontario Senator Lynn Beyak.
posted by stray at 4:27 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Rao is done with affability. “I’d spent years trying to get through to white women with coffees and teas – massaging them, dealing with their tears, and I got nowhere. I thought, if nothing is going to work, let’s try to shake them awake.”
This entire article is a gem. So much of it strongly reminds me of a point Robin DiAngelo noted in her book, White Fragility, about the perceived additional legitimization of paying for anti-racist education. (Cracked me up that the article later mentions how the book is now required reading for the dinner attendees.) Good on Rao and Jackson for monetizing the educational labor so many POC give for free, and using that monetization to reach audiences that might actually take those paid-for lessons to heart and pay them forward.
posted by rather be jorting at 4:27 PM on February 3 [40 favorites]


That's going to be a long dinner.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:45 PM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Us WASPs are really bad at not jumping from "that was racist" to "you called me Hitler". People complain about callout culture but it's just a polite reminder that you did hurt someone and they're in pain because of your actions. Why the hell did my people get so bad at just showing a little fucking empathy and contrition in the name of not being a dick, even if you think it's unwarranted or unfair. This is literally the shit Jesus was talking about.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:58 PM on February 3 [42 favorites]


I guess I really don't understand why fellow white women can't just ... do the work. We really shouldn't need to be wheedled and cajoled and whispered and soothed and eased down the road of self-recognition and change. I'm glad there are people willing to do this work with us and confront us into doing it for ourselves, but at some point they will lose patience and we'll be sitting in a fragile pile of our own tears unwilling to be part of the actual world. We can do so much good with the power we've been accidentally granted. We can help amplify so many voices and support so many things and it's so fucking boring that we sit and self-flagellate and can't handle the responsibility of helping ourselves.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:07 PM on February 3 [14 favorites]


I'm glad there are people willing to do this work with us and confront us into doing it for ourselves, but at some point they will lose patience.

Probably not if you stay current on payments.
posted by avalonian at 5:11 PM on February 3 [10 favorites]


Where's the event for white men?
posted by noxperpetua at 5:18 PM on February 3 [25 favorites]


Obligatory?
posted by bartleby at 5:20 PM on February 3


unfortunately the venue for the white men one exploded. turns out if put too much aggrieved misplaced and ill-considered rage in one place *boom* it spontaneously combusts.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:23 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]


Where's the event for white men?

“Rao and Jackson believe white, liberal women are the most receptive audience because they are open to changing their behavior. They don’t bother with the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. White men, they feel, are similarly a lost cause. “White men are never going to change anything. If they were, they would have done it by now,” Jackson says.”

This sounds stressful for Rao and Jackson, but effective. A great sign that even the early attendees who disliked Rao’s approach ended up changing their behavior in concrete ways. For me it’s usually the things that piss me off (and make me whine inside my head) that stick with me and keep itching at me.
posted by sallybrown at 5:30 PM on February 3 [46 favorites]


“If Trump were impeached tomorrow and we got a new president, a lot of white liberal people will go back to living their lives just as before, and that’s what we have to prevent,” she says. “All that’s happened is we can see racism now, while before we could cover it up. That’s why we need these dinners. So when we get a new person in and racism is not as obvious, we won’t just crawl back to being comfortable.”
Well, fuck. Reading that made me realize that oh shit, that would be me. That would be my mom and dad. That is something we'd do We'd relax (maybe not completely but definitely a lot), even though I am a member of one of the communities oppressed by Trump's regime (LGBTQIA+). We'd just... Breathe, and forget what doesn't immediately affect us.

Not sure when or how but I am going to broach this topic with my folks and certain white friends.

Thanks for sharing this. I would want to go to one of these dinners if I could afford it.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 6:26 PM on February 3 [30 favorites]


turns out if put too much aggrieved misplaced and ill-considered rage in one place *boom* it spontaneously combusts.

i find that events with aggressive white dudes don't spontaneously combust, they explode in a very calculated, easy to purchase, plan, and initiate form of gun violence

posted by erattacorrige at 6:44 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


[One deleted. Please just skip the irreverent/ironic jokes that could read as dismissive or flip about a serious subject -- at best they're going to land really badly. Take a look at the new Community Guidelines and the part about members of dominant groups taking extra care; it's worth being aware of these new norms, which came out of a whole lot of community discussion in the last year.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:15 PM on February 3 [13 favorites]


2500.00 a head? I’m all for wealth re-distribution, by whatever means necessary.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]




I think one reason why what they’re doing is important even if it seems “well people should just be doing the work” is because one of the items talked about obliquely in the article - that for white liberal women of a certain class, they know they’re not supposed to have racist thoughts, so when they come up, they bury them and don’t examine them and just try to shove them down - which was considered the gold standard for a long time. But we now know that burying it doesn’t fix it the way examining it does, so it’s making sure to flip the switch so folks know the right way to move forward.
posted by corb at 11:26 PM on February 3 [19 favorites]


I guess I really don't understand why fellow white women can't just ... do the work. We really shouldn't need to be wheedled and cajoled and whispered and soothed and eased down the road of self-recognition and change. I'm glad there are people willing to do this work with us and confront us into doing it for ourselves, but at some point they will lose patience and we'll be sitting in a fragile pile of our own tears unwilling to be part of the actual world.

I think that part of the answer is that white women in the USA (as a whole) understand that historically White Women Tears are a powerful thing which can be used (consciously or subconsciously) to be on the receiving end of sympathy/empathy/having-people-take-your-side/having-people-believe-that-you-have-been-wronged, and if white women in the USA (as a whole) work to become anti-racist, part of that would probably entail giving up the power of White Women Tears, and that's probably scary AF.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:17 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


2500.00 a head?

A flat $2500.
(Each dinner costs $2,500, which can be covered by a generous host or divided among guests.)
posted by zamboni at 6:32 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


> With great power privilege comes great (social) responsibility.

At least, that's how I wish the quote went. As someone with an over-abundance of privilege, I know I could be doing a lot more. I vote progressive, donate to progressive candidates, and am pretty vocal online and somewhat vocal in person about my views. I've started being more... confrontational, I guess you could say, when I encounter the various isms.

-hard cut-

(that train of thought went on for awhile)

I, I, I, I, I. Without meaning to, I've inserted myself into the conversation where I don't really have a personal stake to claim. I thought about deleting the comment and being silent. But maybe it's worth discussing other ways that privilege manifests? Like the presumption of being a savior, or even just the idea that there are novel solutions that just need that outsider's point of view.

It's probably better to just be present and willing to be directed (or not) by those with a more specific, personal experience with the issues at hand. I confess, I'm not sure how to do that beyond the people immediately within my personal life.

Sorry for the early-morning, rambling, stream of near-unconsciousness. It's a topic I spin my brain wheels on a lot.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:53 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I guess I really don't understand why fellow white women can't just ... do the work.

Based on myself and the other liberal white ladies of my acquaintance, it probably has to do with

1) RACISM,
2) the fact that we’re used to getting credit for good intentions.

This goes triple for the kind of high-status white women described in the article, who are more than likely products of the “meritocratic” class of fancy-degree-holders and high-powered-job-doers. Combine racial privilege, overachiever’s disease, and an allergy to criticism or “getting it wrong” and you get this.

White women need to realize and accept that we’re not exempt from others’ justified reactions to the harm we do just because we didn’t mean to do anything bad and I pay my taxes and I held the door for that old lady last Friday and I eat clean and we do Meatless Monday and I voted for X progressive candidate in Y election blah blah blah. I mean, it’s not just being called out for racism we can’t tolerate, it’s being called out on anything when we thought we were getting an A+. Furthermore, the illusion of the A+ can only exist when your yardstick is other, racist white women, rather than a standard of actual anti-racism.

Rao and Jackson doing these events at all, let alone for the modest sum of 2500 dollars (how many participants make more than that in a week!?!?!?) is, frankly, a favor. (I realize that that’s absolutely not why they’re doing it, but wow white girls, even this is too much for us to handle eh?)
posted by peakes at 6:58 AM on February 4 [17 favorites]


My wife attended something similar at our local UU congregation - a multi-part series on confronting your own racism. Being a UU congregation, it was mostly white Boomers (my wife was the youngest by about 20 years). A lot of it was based around White Fragility, the book referenced in the article.

Her realization was that the approach to anti-racism has changed significantly since the 1960s. A lot of these white ladies felt like, because they had attended protests in college and tried to appear anti-racist on the surface, they deserved kudos and didn't warrant criticism. Additionally, they tended to center the conversation around their own feelings and experiences rather than give space to listed to actual marginalized voices.

Not sure if they ever really got it, but these are important conversations to have. (For us men too.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:01 AM on February 4 [14 favorites]


Her realization was that the approach to anti-racism has changed significantly since the 1960s. A lot of these white ladies felt like, because they had attended protests in college and tried to appear anti-racist on the surface, they deserved kudos and didn't warrant criticism. Additionally, they tended to center the conversation around their own feelings and experiences rather than give space to listen to actual marginalized voices.

This. When Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, my (then all white) church opened its doors and let black people who were coming to Atlanta to mourn stay at the church. For several days, church members cooked and cared for these people who would not be welcome in local hotels and restaurants. It was a great gesture of reconciliation and welcome, and it really did help people.

Some people think that action in 1968 means that our congregation cannot possibly be guilty of racism in any way. And any time anyone brings up diversity and inclusivity work that our congregation needs to do, someone will point to that as our big contribution. As someone who is not young but was not alive in 1968, it's still astonishing to me.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:19 AM on February 4 [14 favorites]


Additionally, they tended to center the conversation around their own feelings and experiences rather than give space to listed to actual marginalized voices.

This struck me particularly -- I wonder if you could draw a bright line between the consciousness-raising groups of the second wave to this manifestation of the personal not just as political, but as the most important thing in the room. I mean, on top of the inherent racism of the action.
posted by kalimac at 7:34 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Speaking solely for myself, I am self-aware enough to know that my lack of overt David Duke style racism does not mean I harbor no racism at all. I've caught myself many times during my life thinking or feeling things that should not be. What was good in the 1970s is not adequate today. I need to keep doing the work or I fall behind, and I have from time to time. Reading MetaFilter has been good for me in this regard but it's not enough.

I am actively looking for a racism life coach or POC psychologist to work through these things in a non-judgmental atmosphere. I want to express my ideas and hear their responses, all in a therapeutic relationship, so that whitesplaining would not be an issue, and there's time for nuance. And yes, I will pay them for their professional services, because why else would someone put in hours and hours listening to this old white guy's ideas about racism?

If you Google for "racism coach" the results are ... not helpful. If anyone has any ideas how I can go about this, I'm interested.
posted by hypnogogue at 8:00 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


This struck me particularly -- I wonder if you could draw a bright line between the consciousness-raising groups of the second wave to this manifestation of the personal not just as political, but as the most important thing in the room. I mean, on top of the inherent racism of the action.

Could be. My wife and I speculated that it had more to do with the centering of Baby Boomers in American culture, and the belief that everything revolves around them personally.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:08 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


this manifestation of the personal not just as political, but as the most important thing in the room.

I may be misunderstanding what you're saying, but isn't saying the "personal" is the "most important thing in the room" the same thing as "centering" white people's feelings? I mean, more power to anyone who monetizes their anti-racism work, but I'm not sure that focusing on "racist thoughts" is really the route to anything. For one thing, psychologically, we do know that trying to suppress thoughts can just tend to magnify them. So I'm not sure what confessing to your "personal guilt" of harboring racist thoughts is really supposed to do, concretely. I also wonder about how this detracts from looking at institutional racism/systemic racism, and understanding the work and sacrifices it would take to bring material equality to everyone.
posted by schwinggg! at 9:46 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I am actively looking for a racism life coach or POC psychologist to work through these things in a non-judgmental atmosphere.

Read Frantz Fanon and donate $500 to your local HBCU.
posted by schwinggg! at 9:47 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


White people who don't think they're at all racist are self-blind. It ain't all that hard to introspect, but apparently many of my fellow white folk avoid it like the plague.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:02 AM on February 4


A lot of these white ladies felt like, because they had attended protests in college and tried to appear anti-racist on the surface, they deserved kudos and didn't warrant criticism.

This is my nextdoor.com feed in a nutshell. They can't afford Berkeley any more so they moved to my neighborhood and say and do and vote for incredibly racist things but they can't be racist because they marched in the 1960s.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:38 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


The thing is--it's not that hard to introspect, but introspection isn't enough. I can't derive a nuanced understanding of how transphobia or misogynoir or other isms work in the world from first principles. I have learned a lot from quietly self-educating, but not everything. I have specifically grown and become less racist because of interactions or call ins or whatever with people in my community, giving me feedback on my specific actions.

We don't tell fresh graduates that they should introspect about how to design car parts correctly. We supervise them and mentor them and check their work. Expertise in how complex social pressures interact is no less valuable.

So yeah, sure, reading White Fragility is great. But it's not a substitute for the service these women are offering.
posted by arabidopsis at 11:45 AM on February 4 [8 favorites]


As to the charging a fee part: musicians can frequently be heard saying that if you give something away for free nobody values it. Put on a door charge and they start paying attention.
posted by tspae at 1:58 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Just a reminder this is a #poctakeover post. Let's limit the performative allyship (e.g. all these crappy white people around me! not like me! who's one of the good ones!).
posted by avalonian at 2:30 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]


I really liked the article and agree a price tag makes the value of the work visible. My favourite line is about weaponizing social manners - white women have been taught never to leave a dinner party! I think the duo personalities is a great idea for the sheer emotional stress of doing this to spread the weight.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:48 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Does it work, though?

I mean I get the inherent value of anger and space to speak, but this feels like how they framed it is a lot closer to a masochistic catharsis for people who always (already) suspected they were secretly racist.

And that, I am point to mind, is largely similar to the men who try to use my anger to purify themselves and offer to pay me hundreds of dollars to do so. Performance confession, a public confrontation to drive out the nasty thoughts if you don't provide your crimes fast enough, and repentance... and largely nothing said about the next constructive steps. Did I miss that part?

Is anyone measuring outcomes, or is this basically like a juice cleanse promising to purge you of toxins, only with a more sympathetic merchant than Gwyneth Paltrow?

I am glad the facilitators are getting paid for their labour, but I feel like the opposite face to White Fragility is an indulgent, ascetic scourging, ideally expensive.
posted by Phalene at 5:35 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


The article does actually mention it working, yes:
But even for those who complained, something has changed. Brown read White Fragility – a book released last year that posits every person partakes to some degree in racism and needs to confront that – and realized many of the things she was commending herself for needed to be re-evaluated. The book is now assigned reading for women before they can attend a dinner.

The woman who compared Rao to Trump went to a city council meeting to speak up about the death of a young black man in her area. She attributes that specifically to Jackson’s call for solidarity.
As for measuring outcomes, the dinners continue to occur, which means there are still more outcomes to be had, of which the pullquoted example is but one illustration.

You do bring up a good point though - what are the next constructive steps after this kind of realization? I'm not white, so I've been curious to see more specific examples of white people communicating anti-racism, whether it's on MetaFilter itself, or elsewhere. What would you consider a next constructive step?
posted by rather be jorting at 5:52 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


What would you consider a next constructive step?

Some people progress a lot faster with complex issues once they have some sort of a framework within which to think about them. I'm like that, and these dinners appear to be, at least partly, about presenting some elements of a framework. The simple question, "What was a racist thing you did recently?" is a great example, and I love how this is worded to just skip to the stage of admitting it has certainly happened, so difficulty coming up with an answer is probably a sign of needing to be more aware.

I was going to comment that a constructive next step would be to share the dinner experience with other white people, and at the right time, slide this question into the conversation to get them thinking in those terms, too. While that may be helpful, it feels like this would a way of shifting the focus to other people again. I think what's really needed as a next step is to pursue some further learning. Build out that conceptual framework, to better understand where more work is needed and how to progress with it.
posted by FishBike at 6:19 PM on February 4


Utterly absurd. PMC grifters selling indulgences to wealthy white women so they can feel absolved of their sins. This achieves absolutely nothing on a systematic level and those are the powerful socioeconomic forces that actually destroy people's lives. Racism serves a useful material function within capitalism - so long as our relations are dependent on maximizing profit, addressing the roots of racism will never happen through individual consciousness raising and if you don't believe me just watch the alarming rise of Sinophobia now and in the coming decades as American hegemony begins to slip.
posted by smithsmith at 7:57 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I think we're all pretty tired if ppl using Marx to deny and defer racist experiences. Not sure what is the point of telling anti-racist activists that they shouldn't bother until they overthrow capitalism, at this point it seems like active deterrence.
posted by Think_Long at 8:37 PM on February 4 [21 favorites]


This hardly sounds like someone who believes they've been absolved of sin:
She found Rao needlessly provocative and mean-spirited, unaware of her own class privilege, and divisive. She felt the dinner set her up to fail.
or another attendee who
...referred to Rao as “the Trump of the alt-left”.
In declaring individual consciousness-raising to be worthless grift because it's not systemic enough in its effect, are you saying this from the perspective of someone who has to actually deal with any of the racism this project is ameliorating smithsmith?

Telling a tale of the glorious day when the revolution will seize the commanding heights and capitalism will be done away with so of course, ka-blam, racism will be torn out by the roots, 'cause there can't be much more to racism than the evils of capitalism right?—telling tales like that is what's worthless I think, next to actually getting your hands dirty and doing something about racism as these women are.
posted by XMLicious at 9:58 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]


Oh, please. Nowhere did I suggest we should deny existing racist experiences or that we can't engage in the (actual) work of anti-racism until the overthrow of capitalism. That's a ridiculous strawman (that applies to you too, XMLicious).

Cynical grifters like Saira Rao would have you believe that every white person is born with an innate kernel of racism lodged somewhere near their left ventricle which can only be expunged by paying (her, surprisingly) one low, low introductory payment of $299.

Ask yourself - where might white people have developed these prejudicial ideas and thoughts about people of other races? Did it originate in the womb as some form of neurologically-programmed xenophobia to be psychically exorcised somewhere between the amuse-bouche and the dessert course? Of course not. It quite obviously comes from the pervasive and incessant dehumanizing propaganda with which they are indoctrinated every single day of their lives.

This propaganda undeniably originates in the ruling class-controlled media, education and political systems. This brainwashing isn't just some accident. It serves an extremely profitable function under capitalism - it justifies the exploitation, dispossession and, very often, mass murder of vulnerable classes of people; homeless folks, black people, Native Americans, Muslims et. al. If a class of people can be made to be seen as less than fully human, it becomes far easier to enslave them, deny them proper wages, healthcare, education or bomb them into oblivion - and, further, to discredit those advocating against such policies - all to the magically incidental benefit of increased profit margins and worker atomization.

We don't have to end capitalism before we can end racism. But, at a minimum, we need to recognize the very real symbiotic role that capitalism plays in sustaining systematic racism and vice versa. These enormous forces need to be understood and challenged on that level in order to have anything approaching a substantive effect on people's lives. That work takes intersectional solidarity and mass movements not price-exclusionary dinner parties and narcissistic individualism.

When I see people in this thread wringing their hands with navel-gazing anguish about their personal failures to address their implicit biases or desperately searching for PMC race-whisperers who might accept an exorbitant fee to relieve them of their deep feelings of guilt, it honestly makes me sick. It makes me sick because those feelings of shame and remorse could more productively be expressed as feelings of outrage and anger directed at a system which methodically embeds hateful catechisms into your psyche from the moment you are born up until you take your last breath. Acknowledge those feelings, be better, sure. But, for God's sake, forgive yourself and get to work. Actual work.
posted by smithsmith at 10:45 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


smithsmith, I feel like you maybe skipped the chapter about seizing the means of production...
posted by katra at 10:50 PM on February 4


Then feel free to respond with something approaching substance.
posted by smithsmith at 10:56 PM on February 4


2500.00 a head? I’m all for wealth re-distribution, by whatever means necessary.

One of the two women who runs this (Saira Rao) is an Ivy League-educated former Wall Streeter whose husband manages a hedge fund, so I’m not quite sure I’d call this wealth redistribution, exactly!

(She ran for local office a while back, so her background got some press.)
posted by artemisia at 11:02 PM on February 4


smithsmith, I feel like you grossly mischaracterize what is actually being offered in the meetings and believed by the organizers in order to create a strawperson to knock down in service to a vague ideological call to arms. Do the work? That's what they're doing.

From your apparent ideological lens, I also find it glorious, in a 'seize the means of production' sense, because the organizers are literally counteracting the 'brainwashing' you are talking about, and punking the capitalist system by charging so much for it. Because of course they should charge for it, and $2500 seems like a very good deal given how valuable a service is being provided.
posted by katra at 11:16 PM on February 4 [9 favorites]


Acknowledge those feelings, be better, sure. But, for God's sake, forgive yourself and get to work. Actual work.

The "actual work" in your mind doesn't actually involve dealing with anyone's personal racism because that's unimportant or so easy it doesn't count as actual work, I guess. The same reason these women's work is worthless.

You yourself describe our environment as one that "methodically embeds hateful catechisms into your psyche from the moment you are born up until you take your last breath" but then you seem to characterize dealing with it all as a momentary change of heart and moving on.

It's not easy like that! Inculcated racist thoughts and habits and perspectives and reflexes so fundamental that they ooze out of us into our writing and our laws and our algorithms are not just waved away. It's not some quick thing to free yourself of racism to go pursue lofty goals, it's the work of a lifetime; and it's work that has ripple effects throughout the rest of the community. It's important work.

Furthermore failing to do it or accounting it as unimportant will quite possibly poison the pursuit of those lofty goals later on, much as an artwork or law or algorithm might turn out racist in nature or effect.
posted by XMLicious at 12:41 AM on February 5 [10 favorites]


This will be my last post on this thread as I don't want to derail further.

I think a lot of unfounded assumptions are being made here with pretty paltry evidence. Firstly, there is the assumption that this program, which is undeniably fiscally-exclusionary by its nature, can actually be effective beyond a dispersed, individualistic and highly-privileged level. Yes, good, fine; you might plug one hole in the white supremacist dike but as long as a deliberate and all-pervasive system of mass inculcation continues then people will continue to be, you know, inculcated.

Secondly, I am NOT and have never said that dealing with the symptoms of structural racism is not worthwhile but, too often, that work is reduced (as exemplified in this case) to superficial acts of narcissistic supplication - I'm talking about those privileged white folks who will finally be able to exchange a smile with that once-scary black man on the street but then go home and heedlessly pay their gardener/au pair less than minimum wage or give final notice to that delinquent Latino family in one of their rental properties or, dare I say it, vote with haughty, insouciant pride for presidential candidates who share responsibility for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poor, third-world brown-skinned people.
posted by smithsmith at 1:36 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Systems are made up of individuals, and dismantling a system requires individuals to take action. The inculcation of racism won't stop unless the people doing the inculcation stop working racism into the things they build, the children they teach, the policies they create or vote for. If individuals can't recognise racism when it's present, they can't change the system. Structure of oppression don't just magically appear out of nowhere - they're built and maintained by real people.

I would like to see evidence that this program creates long-term change, too. It might take a while so some long-term follow-ups on participants would be good.

But I don't see any reason these dinners couldn't create change, or that it isn't worth trying, and you haven't provided one. Blowing it all off as shallow narcissism while saying that it makes you feel sick that people are trying this method seems like a pretty extreme reaction to me.
posted by harriet vane at 2:05 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Utterly absurd. PMC grifters selling indulgences to wealthy white women so they can feel absolved of their sins. This achieves absolutely nothing on a systematic level

Utterly absurd. Internet tough guys paying only just enough attention to what they're reading to gather building materials for strawmen to bloviate against. This achieves absolutely nothing on a systematic level.
posted by flabdablet at 2:16 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


(Also this Aussie reads PMC as Prime Minister & Cabinet so I'm not getting that reference.)

The target market seems like a solid choice to me. Relatively rich women (political consultant) and people in the caring professions (social worker) seem like they would have the ability and opportunity to create change if they knew what change was needed.
posted by harriet vane at 2:28 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


this Aussie reads PMC as Prime Minister & Cabinet so I'm not getting that reference

This Aussie looked it up and is guessing it's probably Politico-media complex. Which is undoubtedly a thing worth excoriating in and of itself, but of dubious relevance to TFA.
posted by flabdablet at 2:40 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I think it's a reference to Professional Managerial Class.
posted by inire at 4:15 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Starting from the premise that racism and capitalism are each pillars that support the other, I think a good strategy would be to go after whichever of those two is the most vulnerable. In much of the world, that's clearly racism. Just think about the answers you'd get to the question "Is racism bad?" vs "Is capitalism bad?", which are like, pre-101 level stuff.

Systemic change is the goal of course. But that's only going to happen once there's a critical mass of public support for it. That comes about through individual change until a tipping point is reached.

Nothing described in the article prevents other approaches from being tried as well, and that's what we need--multiple simultaneous efforts to chip away at all aspects of racism. Rather than interfere with other efforts, there is often a synergistic effect where a person puts together disparate facts and arguments they've been exposed to over time and has a lightbulb moment eventually. They're not handing out "certified non-racist" cards at the end of these things, and the parts about progress made even by attendees who disliked the experience supports that.
posted by FishBike at 5:46 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Professional Managerial Class

I bow to your superior bloviation decoding skills.
posted by flabdablet at 5:49 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Secondly, I am NOT and have never said that dealing with the symptoms of structural racism is not worthwhile

but you kind of did? in, like, your sentence literally right above that?

you might plug one hole in the white supremacist dike but as long as a deliberate and all-pervasive system of mass inculcation continues then people will continue to be, you know, inculcated.

I'm really not that heated up about this and I'm relatively ambivalent about this particular program, but there is a noted pattern on this site where class-consciousness is prioritized over anti-racism in a way that feels dismissive at best.
posted by Think_Long at 6:01 AM on February 5 [12 favorites]


Smithsmith, your comment is extremely dismissive of these women's activity, in a verbally aggressive way, and your backpedaling in the later comment reads like gaslighting.

Utterly absurd. PMC grifters selling indulgences to wealthy white women so they can feel absolved of their sins. This achieves absolutely nothing on a systematic level

What makes them grifters? These are highly educated women who can no doubt command this kind of salary for their time if they were selling it to legal companies or management consulting or something. I suspect you severely underestimate the amount of time, energy, effort and emotional labor these "dinner parties" require from them, in a similar way to how students think that a teacher's job is merely the hour they spend in the classroom and not the dozens of hours of planning, curriculum development, post mortems, iterative design and emotional support that happens before and after. And that's before we consider that the nature of this topic means they are opening themselves up to some very unpleasant and exhausting interpersonal interactions. I wouldn't do it for less than they are charging, even if I could. (And I couldn't).

Maybe you object to the idea of exchanging labor for money at all, but in that case you've picked a very specific example of this to take issue with, and the way you are doing so reads as highly problematic.
posted by lollusc at 6:22 AM on February 5 [12 favorites]


the assumption that this program, which is undeniably fiscally-exclusionary by its nature, can actually be effective beyond a dispersed, individualistic and highly-privileged level.

Vox.com: The midterm election shows white women are finally starting to abandon Trump
"across the country as a whole, about 49 percent of white women voted for Democrats in House races, while another 49 percent voted for Republicans, according to exit polling by CNN.

In 2016, by contrast, just 43 percent of white women voted for Democratic House candidates, while 55 percent voted for Republicans.

Half of white women is hardly a landslide, but the shift contributed to a history-making night for Democrats, who scored the highest margin of victory ever among women voters in a midterm election, with 59 percent of women across the country voting for Democrats in the House."
Can we draw a direct line from the Race Dinners to these results? Of course not, because the dinners only began in 2019. But voters are individuals, voting results are caused by individuals making individual choices, the more individuals making choices to confront and understand their own inculcated systemic racism, the more they are likely to vote in ways that produce collective results.

I'm talking about those privileged white folks who will finally be able to exchange a smile with that once-scary black man on the street but then go home and heedlessly pay their gardener/au pair less than minimum wage or give final notice to that delinquent Latino family in one of their rental properties or, dare I say it, vote with haughty, insouciant pride for presidential candidates who share responsibility for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of poor, third-world brown-skinned people.

Bluntly, considering we are talking about a program aimed at white women, this comes across as sneeringly sexist - resting on the the assumption that women are too unintelligent or wrapped up in their financially comfortable lives to make connections beyond their immediate circumstances. No, you say, these women are silly flibbertigibbets who want to perform mea culpa as soap opera drama, not from any desire for real change.

you might plug one hole in the white supremacist dike but as long as a deliberate and all-pervasive system of mass inculcation continues then people will continue to be, you know, inculcated

Really curious about whatever fucking magic wand you plan to wave to eliminate a pervasive system that doesn't involve actual individuals changing their individual minds.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:29 AM on February 5 [13 favorites]


that doesn't involve actual individuals changing their individual minds.

I think the problem is that, as described in the article, this effort seems to be more directed towards wallowing in guilt and less directed towards actual change in actions or understanding. Sort of like the people who have MLK quote posters in their yards or windows, and refuse to send their kids to the local zoned school. And more that that, I think there's an excellent case to be made that racism isn't systemic due to private thoughts, but due to existing in a racist system that you're not willing to sacrifice to change.
posted by schwinggg! at 8:08 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


this effort seems to be more directed towards wallowing in guilt and less directed towards actual change in actions or understanding.

That was not my reading of the situation at all. Learning to recognize your own culpability in participating in and sustaining systematic racism can certainly be an important step, and while the article does lean heavily on the "recognize" element of these dinners, I would not describe it as simply "wallowing", and the article provides examples of how people who have participated in these dinners have taken actions afterwards.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:33 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Cynical grifters like Saira Rao would have you believe that every white person is born with an innate kernel of racism lodged somewhere near their left ventricle which can only be expunged by paying (her, surprisingly) one low, low introductory payment of $299.

smithsmith was literally-literally making up bullshit, and I don't feel that their bowing out of this thread after attempting to derail it is any reason to not point out that they were literally-literally making up bullshit. Hopefully they were being honest before when they said they wouldn't leave any more of their bullshit comments in this thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:50 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Cynical grifters like Saira Rao would have you believe that every white person is born with an innate kernel of racism lodged somewhere near their left ventricle which can only be expunged by paying (her, surprisingly) one low, low introductory payment of $299.

Every white person is enculturated into a white supremacist, racist system. I don't know that I believe this is the best way to fix that system, but it's undeniable that, essentially, every white person has an innate kernel of racism somewhere near their left ventricle. And maybe paying nonwhite people to talk us through and around our racist system is the best way to expunge (or at least expose and be aware of and work to counteract) that fact.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:54 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


I think there's an excellent case to be made that racism isn't systemic due to private thoughts, but due to existing in a racist system that you're not willing to sacrifice to change.

I'm pretty sure that no one is saying that racism is systemic due to private thoughts. However, I would suggest that a need to find "the problem" in efforts to raise awareness about personal racism is part of the structure that sustains pervasive racism in our culture.

As to the education system, the idea that an "actual change in actions" means accepting inequality instead of working to fundamentally change it (WaPo) seems more like trolling, unless it is a genuinely-held belief. If it is a genuine belief, there's a dinner party you may want to attend.
posted by katra at 10:11 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that a need to find "the problem" in efforts to raise awareness about personal racism is part of the structure that sustains pervasive racism in our culture.

What is "personal racism," though? Again, I actually HAVE read a lot of persuasive critique that centering white feelings (e.g., feelings of racism) actually is counter-productive. And as others have said, the notion that to counter racism you have to be able to afford a $2500 dinner is, well, problematic. Fundamentally I believe that anti-racism is action oriented, and that yes, focusing on feelings alone could sustain inaction or be counterproductive.
posted by schwinggg! at 10:52 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't know what point you are trying to make about the school system. My point was precisely that for-profit confessionals/struggle sessions have nothing to do with actual action, like sending your kid to an integrated school in your neighborhood. I was sincere when I wrote upthread that the money would be better spent donated to an HBCU. I feel weird about this argument because I'm absolutely not trying to say that it's illegitimate to pay women of color for their diversity/anti-racist education work, or that structured personal encounters have no role.
posted by schwinggg! at 10:56 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I actually HAVE read a lot of persuasive critique that centering white feelings (e.g., feelings of racism) actually is counter-productive.

That applies in conversations with victims of racism where the dynamic becomes coddling the white person rather than the afflicted person of color (e.g. a white person says something racist, a Person of Color points it out, the white person is hurt by the accusation of being racist, and the conversation becomes how not-racist the white person is and how offended they were by such an accusation).

the notion that to counter racism you have to be able to afford a $2500 dinner is, well, problematic.

One of many options available. No one asserted this was the only way to address racism.
posted by avalonian at 10:57 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]


And as others have said, the notion that to counter racism you have to be able to afford a $2500 dinner is, well, problematic.

I mean, nobody is saying that though. I don't get how people don't understand that charging for something is a way to make certain people value the thing. Charging for these dinners makes some people value the experience more. The existence of the opportunity to take part in a $2500 Book Club meets Dinner meets White People Examining Their Own Racist Feelings Workshop doesn't mean that the $2500 dinner is the ONLY way to counter racism (for some definition of "counter racism").
posted by 23skidoo at 11:02 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Just as a general yard stick, if you're going to use critiques by certain POCs to criticize other POCs, make sure you really really understand said critique and its impact.

To not abuse the edit window, coddling a white person after they were racist adds insult to injury for the victims of said racism. Asking the victim of racism to explain (read: justify) why things are racist is also adding insult to injury, and super fucked up and emotionally taxing. Have you ever had to explain why abuse you've received from someone you've received it from is abuse? That's what centering white feelings is in my understanding.

Paying said victim of racism to voluntarily* make educating white people their profession - at a time and in a manner preferred by said victim of racism - is a horse of an entirely different color.


*discussions of what "voluntary" labor in the United States is notwithstanding
posted by avalonian at 11:08 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]


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