Recently, I came across an article on Facebook posted by a fellow like-minded student, which surprised and intrigued me. The article was entitled “White People Have No Place in Black Liberation” and was from RaceBaitr.com, written by Kevin Rigby Jr. and Hari Ziyad. The basic premise of the article was that white people should not be allowed to participate in black liberation movements. Rigby and Ziyad argue that because whiteness is historically and contextually seen as the dominant race, white people will continue to be dominant if their presence is there in a shared space. They claim that it is a contradiction for a white person to do anything to address racism, because whiteness in action is racism.
They believe that for a white person to take action, “whiteness must be centered in a way that would perpetuate its oppressive essentiality.” In essence, as long as there is “whiteness” there is oppression of blacks.
I found this article particularly conflicting in terms of ally ship and I have many questions for the authors of this article. So if white people should not be allowed in black liberation movements because they will be inevitably dominant, how are they supposed to be allies of blacks? Rigby and Ziyad seem to suggest that they don’t want white allies. But if white people were not involved in black liberation movements, they would not self reflect on their own implicit biases and racist tendencies and racism would only persist. Won’t the lack of white support only exacerbate the problem of inequality?
If whites are excluded from black liberation movements, what will result is a greater divide and hatred between these two races. Banning white people from these movements will only make white people resentful towards blacks furthering the problem of racism. Whites need to be conscious of how much space they take up in shared spaces and need to allow blacks perhaps to take up even more space than them in black liberation circumstances, but excluding whites from the movement would only cause more problems.
Rigby and Ziyad do not offer white people many solutions in taking on a positive whiteness. The article says that “even those who are well meaning, should drive themselves into the ground trying to figure out how to occupy a positive whiteness – because it is impossible.” The article puts white people in a trap, because it does not give them a way to help fix the problem of racism and allow them to find practical solutions to change the meaning of their whiteness. I believe that what the authors were alluding to is the idea that all white people are racist, because they are part of a system that benefits them for being white. While I acknowledge this to be true, if positive whiteness is impossible to obtain, then what are individuals born with white skin supposed to do?
I am not in anyway saying that we should coddle white people and/or put them at the center of black liberation movements. White people need to learn and be aware of their implicit biases towards blacks and make great efforts to keep those biases in check. White people need to educate themselves and take responsibility for ways in which they may contribute to a racist system. I can also see their point about how if a white person is in a shared space, they inevitably are going to take the dominant stance. However, just telling white people to stay out of it instead of giving them helpful solutions to combating racism, will only further the gap between black and white individuals, which will not fix the problem of inequality. Racism is something that needs to be tackled and looked at by all races, including whites.
The authors do offer one solution for white people, which is to give up power completely. The article demands a “literal disappearance from the State and its institutions.” In my opinion, this solution does not seem practical or fair. Although I see the logic of how the authors reached their conclusions, taking all power away from a dominant group does not seem like an effective strategy in obtaining racial equality. Instead of focusing on bringing white people down, we should be focusing on bringing black people up to an even playing field. There should be an even distribution of all races in higher institutions and power structures, not the complete obliteration of the currently dominant race. Would removing white people from black liberation movements really be effective in eliminating racism? Taking this even further, would removing white people completely from systems of power be effective in obtaining racial equality?