Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as “divisive”, “angry”, “irrational”; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone...
From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility...Armed with “diversity” soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives. When you get right down to it, the unrecognized political reality is that most white liberals have more in common with white conservatives — social cues, family ties, cognitive biases, cultural backdrops, etc. — than they do with people of color. I’m calling this tangle of contradictions the white liberal conundrum...
For those white liberals and progressives who become serious about extracting racism from their worlds and their lives, who wish to participate in the dismantling of white supremacism, the white liberal conundrum usually culminates in some sort of series of crossroads and reckonings. They’re often forced to make tough decisions about which of their previous alliances and networks — newly illuminated and often unfavorably recontextualized by anti-racist analysis — are worth trying to maintain, which are too invested in the distortions of the white lens to salvage, and which new directions and networks to pursue.
In my post below on A Nation of Cowards, Blackman made this important point in the comments:
I'd like to throw out for consideration that, if you REALLY mean it, then, the kind of engagement that this is going to take will NOT happen if you just "would like" or "wish" that it would.
Means you're gonna have to be "intentional".
That is, ON PURPOSE, you would have to seek out who you'd like to work some of this out with and PUT YOURSELF IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION.
Hence some of what A.G. Holder means re: the "coward" aspect.
I think that's a big part of "the white liberal conundrum" Kai is talking about...meeting that crossroads with a decision to be intentional about our alliances and networks.