By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: ‘Nonracism’ begins a series of columns

Part I of a Series: “I am not a racist.”

That thought was self-soothing after the eight-minute suffocation of George Floyd; it deflected feelings of personal guilt during demonstrations against centuries of systemic racism, oppression and sanctioned violence.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Then came Ibram Kendi’s book, “How To Be An Antiracist,” which expands and refines the 1979 statement of activist Angela Davis: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be antiracist.”

My thoughts time-traveled to a childhood devoid of immediate family racism. But here in Oregon we lacked the experiences of kinfolk in Texas, one of seven original slave-holding states of the Confederacy.

Later, an intense graduate program half-filled with people of color reinforced my feelings of being nonracist. But today, my lifetime of white male privilege is confronted by reminders that nonracist thinking doesn’t change a racist society.

Kendi argues that saying, “I am not a racist” is itself a form of racism. Author Meredith Atwood, another “nonracist,” wrote in Psychology Today: “I contributed to racism for decades in ways that were unconscious and covert. I contributed to racism in ways that were also flagrantly racist. I continue to contribute.”

There is a backlash. Rod Dreher, writing in The American Conservative, termed Kendi’s antiracism movement a form of totalitarianism: “(It) is not an attempt to persuade anyone. It’s a life story interspersed with a litany of pronouncements about what you have to do to be good rather than evil … All there is is power. You either wield it or are controlled by it. And power is simply the ability to implement racist or antiracist policy.”

The subject is not new. However, the unlikely intersection of George Floyd, Donald Trump and COVID-19 has propelled Americans into previously untapped levels of introspection about racial inequalities.

This introduces a month of columns about the history, the intransigence and the acknowledgment of a racist society, not just nationally, but here in Oregon and Yamhill County. We will examine Kendi’s interview with journalist Jeff Chang:

“If you grow up in a society where it’s sort of constantly raining racist ideas on your head and you don’t have an umbrella, to claim that you have never been wet in your life, I mean, it’s just preposterous, right? … in order to admit and confess, you have to be self-aware and recognize.”

And if that subject’s not of interest, maybe we’ll see you back here in August.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Pedro

I'm glad you recognize your racism and white privilege that's a start. With privilege there is power and with power there is corruption and it's not so easy to admit corruption. They go hand in hand. Painting everyone with your brush and your personal beliefs is not acceptable in personal circles it's waylaid by repercussions it is however easy to use your power as the only publication in McMinnville. Once again thank you for admitting your racism I personally appreciate it.

Sponge

I see the difference between being non-racist and anti racist as similar to the difference between being an agnostic and a true believer. I am troubled by the quote, “All there is power. You either wield it or are controlled by it.” It is that view that inhibits the kind of dialog necessary for real change. As seekers of truth and justice, we must start by heeding the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together.” If all we see is a battle of wills, we will never find the empathy and understanding that leads to lasting reform.