02 January 2007


People like me - financially well-off, white, relatively healthy, middle aged, male, etc. - have a problem, namely figuring out how those who are outside of that privileged group see and experience the world. Among the things that photography does (as I have said multiple times here) is provide an imagining technology that, used creatively, can help with that problem. But no technology acts on its own, a camera is something that photographers use and is expansive or limiting according to who is using it and the purposes for which they are doing so. In any case, there is a controversy of sorts (actually a new iteration of an ongoing controversy) surrounding Walter Benn Michaels' criticisms of identity politics in The Problem With Diversity (you can find an early advert for his views here.). I read this morning a perceptive reply to Michaels "White Progressive Don't Get It" by Rinku Sen in In These Times. Sen is publisher of ColorLines magazine which seems like it might be useful reading for folks like me and the problem we face. I will say that, because I have two teenage sons, one of the things that caught my attention is this essay by Megan Izen on books for young adults.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most whites never step back long enough to realize that people of color live in a white world even if we never see a white face for days, weeks, months on end. The whole social and economic structure of this nation was constructed to benefit them, and remains essentially unchanged to this day. Racist "logic" will, of course, remind whites at every turn that those social/economic problems they might be experiencing can ultimately be traced to non whites. And many whites will offer the superficial "I don't see color" line while having only the most superficial of relationships with "the other."

Few whites fully realize how all encompassing race and racism is in our society. They may suffer a racial slight or taunt on the street and think that's the brunt of it. They'll never taste and experience racism in all its sublime and subtle nuances on a daily basis, but they will cry bloody murder over a small pittance of jobs under affirmative action.

Confronting the 800lb. gorilla of racism means that whites have to take a long hard look at themselves and let the chips fall where they may. It means exposing a lot of lies, debunking a lot of solemn beliefs, exposing their very souls. The human race as a whole has a lot of problems with that.

02 January, 2007 21:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Race" is a lazy and ignorant social construct that's used to justify mistreating others. It's an old idea, and it's pretty well embedded here in the good ole USA, despite all of the talk of freedom, the pursuit of happiness, equality, and all that.

Stan, you're right in saying that the whole social and economic structure of this nation was formed to benefit a select group. It sure wasn't made to benefit those people who came here from Western Africa, or Mexicans, let alone the people who were already here.

Confronting racism here in this country goes all the way back to its foundations. Yep, we all know that. But then, reexamining American history is taboo, "revisionist," and "anti-American."

So millions of people just keeps watching TV, buying crap, and pretending that that 800 pound gorilla isn't a problem.

05 January, 2007 00:21  

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