Friday, August 14, 2009

Towards Eliminating Racism: My 12 Working Assumptions.

Because racism is both institutional and attitudinal, effective strategies against it must recognize this dual character. The elimination of institutionalized racism requires a conscious project of attitudinal transformation. The deliberate attempt to transform racist patterns of thought and action must be accompanied by political and social change. The following assumptions offer a perspective for beginning the work.

1. The systematic mistreatment of any group of people isolates and divides human beings from each other. This practice is a hurt to all people. The division and isolation produced by racism is a hurt to people from all ethnic groups.

2. Racism is not a genetic disease. No human being is born with racist attitudes and beliefs. Physical and cultural differences between people are not the cause of racism; these differences are used as the excuse to justify racism. (Analogy with sexism: anatomical differences between human males and females are not the cause of sexism; these differences are used to justify the mistreatment of females of all ages.)

3. No young person acquires misinformation by their own free choice. Racist attitudes and beliefs are a mixture of misinformation and ignorance which is imposed upon young people through a painful process of social conditioning. "You have to be taught to hate and fear."

4. Misinformation is harmful to all human beings. Misinformation about peoples of color is harmful to all people. Having racist attitudes and beliefs is like having a clamp on one's mind. It distorts one's perceptions of reality. Two examples: the notion that "flesh color" and the use of the term 'minorities' to describe the majority of the world's people.

5. No one holds onto misinformation voluntarily. People hold onto racist beliefs and attitudes because this misinformation represents the best thinking they have been able to do at this time, and because no one has been able to assist them to change their perspective.

6.People will change their minds and let go of ingrained attitudes under the following conditions: A) the new position is presented in a way that makes sense to them; B) they trust the person who is presenting the new position; C) they are not blamed for having had misinformation.

7. People hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. In this society we have all experienced systematic mistreatment as young people- often through physical violence, but also through the invalidation of our intelligence, the disregard of our feelings, the discounting of our abilities. As a result of these experiences, we tend both to internalize this mistreatment by accepting it as 'the way things are', and to externalize it by mistreating others. Part of the process of undoing racism involves becoming aware of and interrupting this cycle of mistreatment in day to day encounters and interactions.

8. As young people we have often witnessed despair and cynicism in the adults around us, and we have often been made to feel powerless in the face of injustice. Racism continues in part because we feel powerless to do anything about it.

9. There are times when we have failed to act, times when we did not achieve as much as we wanted to in the struggle against racism. Eliminating racism also involves understanding the difficulties we have had and learning to overcome them, without blaming ourselves for having had those difficulties.

10.The situation is not hopeless; people can grow and change; we are not condemned to repeat the past. Racist conditioning need not be a permanent state of affairs. It can be -examined, analyzed and dismantled. Because this misinformation is glued together and held in place with painful emotion, the process of dismantling it must take place on the experiential as well as on the theoretical level.

11.We live in a multicultural, multi-ethnic scoiety; everyone is "ethnic." Misinformation about other people's ethnicity is often the flip side of misinformation about one's own ethnicity. For example the notion that some ethnic groups are 'exotic' and 'different' is the flip side of the notion that one's own group is just 'regular' or 'plain'. Thus a crucial part of eliminating racism is the acquiring of accurate information about one's own ethnicity and cultural heritage. Reclaiming this information will show us that we all come from traditions in which we can take justified pride.

12.All people come from traditions which have a history of resistance to injustice, and every person has their own individual history of resistance to oppressive social conditioning. This history deserves to be recalled and celebrated. Reclaiming one's own history of resistance is central to the project of acquiring an accurate account of one's own heritage. When people act from a sense of informed pride in themselves and their traditions, they will be more effective in all struggles for justice.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PM upsets anti-smelter activists.

La Brea residents and environmentalists have described Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s statement that the community would become the home to the nation’s first aluminium smelter facility as “disrespectful” and bordering on contempt.
Addressing a large crowd of jubilant supporters at Frisco Junction, Point Fortin on Monday night, Manning maintained a smelter would be built and said members of the anti-smelter wanted to derail the country’s industrialisation drive. However, La Brea resident, Anselm Carter, along with others who gathered at a camp site outside the Union Industrial Estate on Monday night in the hope of speaking to the Prime Minister on his way to the Point Fortin meeting, said the Government has not brought any scientific evidence to prove the proposed facility was safe for residents and the environment. “He (Manning) is just talking. He refuses to meet with the residents to say why a smelter plant and not some other facility is needed for the La Brea area,” Carter said. Carter also condemned the large police presence at the camp site on Monday night saying the activists were peaceful. Residents and activists at the site viewed the socially-conscious music videos of late pop icon Michael Jackson’s “Earth song” and “Man in the mirror”. Activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh reiterated the anti-smelter protestors were not opposed to industrialisation but against an industry which would not produce any sustainable benefits to the nation. Meanwhile, a small group of former oil workers staged a placard and candlelight vigil during the PNM meeting to highlight the non-payment of cost of living allowances by State-owned oil company, Petrotrin since 2003. Bearing placards reading, “Manning pensioner hungry” and “Mr Manning, please help the retirees”, spokesperson Jonathan Maguire said the groups’ intention was not to disrupt the meeting but rather to highlight their plight to the Prime Minister.