Ijeoma Oluo: “What You Can Do Right Now About Police Brutality”

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Racism is your problem, not because white people are uniquely
predisposed to racial bigotry (it’s a horrible trait we all share), but
because the power structure of White Supremacy upholds it.

No, it isn’t. It’s everybody’s problem, and the reason for this is right in the quote: It’s not personal bigotry, it’s a pre-existing system. I’m sorry that some POC need to lash out at me for my (lack of?) skin color, but their need for someone to blame doesn’t actually make me to blame. And, frankly, further mythologiziing white efficacy is bigoted and counterproductive. Racism is a class strategy designed to keep various factions of middle class and poor people at cross purposes. Thanks for feeding that!

I’m glad to help. Really. It’s urgent that I help. I get that. Police brutality is wrong. Discrimination in hiring is wrong. I am not a cop. I am not a hiring manager. So, try to imagine for a second that there are white people who are other than all-powerful.

James Baldwin was right: His fellows were not going to understand the violence to identity done by the other side of the racism coin. The author of that piece is strong evidence of that.

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I found the article pretty weak; it’s heavy on misdirection and conflation. mknorman’s point “…there are white people who are other than all-powerful” is also spot on.

Police brutality is not just against POC. Racial bias results in many injustices, excess rates of police brutality among them, but the impacts of those injustices are still the “problems” of the out-group not the in-group; unfortunate and unfair though that may be.

Demands by the out-group, discomfort at obvious injustice and evidence of a dysfunctional justice system are, by contrast, actual “problems” for members of the in-group, though carrying far less salience.

Most people have the will and resources only to fight injustices that are truly important to them; particularly those that create problems for them as individuals. Oluo is banging the table saying “Pay attention to this injustice in preference to others.” He benefits much more from action to rectify it than the people he’s exhorting. Another way to say that is that it is more his problem than theirs.

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The actions she recommends are all logical and a lot more effective than public protests, and if more people actually wrote their congressmen, wrote the mayor or city council, and got involved in the police conduct review process, we might actually make changes (this is true of any issue, we live in a democracy, that’s how it works.)

I agree that it’s as much about economic opportunity as it is about race. I agree it’s also about how police forces are prone to abuse of power when there is no oversight. Everything she calls for would indeed address that, regardless of race, so if you are concerned about economic opportunity and police brutality then just ignore race and get to it.

Racism does exist, and you can’t blame the author for being angry about it and pointing the finger at white America to do something (whites are still the overwhelming majority, nothing is going to change without some white involvement), but rather than being offended because you think she’s implicating you personally as culpable for all racism, let it pass and get involved in changing the process. I will be.


Do a quick google search on her name and read some of her other writing. I’m pretty sure you’ll see she’s not “lashing out”.

Looking at this from a vantage point outside the US, she’s more measured in her responses than the situation deserves. Much better than I could manage in her position.


Huh? I get that you’re paraphrasing, but I’d really like to know where Baldwin said something like that.

I think that I’m thinking of comments he made during his debate with Buckley. I have to confess, however, that this is a kind of synthetic recollection on my part, by now.

Probably a less clumsy thing for me to point to is the line between academic activists and the groups on whose behalves they activate more generally. The latter have an interest in the end of the condition under question, whereas the former are engaged in endeavors, activism and publishing, that require the condition to continue; Whether they realize it or not, their incremental pressures direct them to point to inscrutable, essential, and unresolvable causes, rather than plain, contingent, and solvable ones. To me, it was a mark of Baldwin’s courage and integrity that he knew what it meant to work himself out of a job, and he actively tried to do so. One aspect of that was that he would point to the dehumanization of that segment, especially, of the white population that was actively engaged in racial violence and racial discrimination. That got at something real that could work to end or remediate racism as a condition. It’s this that I think is missing from this author, who complained, for example, that white people were apologizing for the harm done to black people.

Huh. I’ve actually watched that debate (and was glad, if I remember right, to see Baldwin clearly win), but I recall him saying nothing of the sort. It just doesn’t sound like him. I also don’t think, contrary to what you just wrote about him and his life’s work, that he thought there was any chance of his writing himself out of a job. He knew, of course, that white oblivion would long outlive him, try as he and others might to expose and help eradicate it.

As for academic attachment to that which their written work only claims to seek to destroy, once again, few that I’ve read on the topic of racism/white supremacy have any illusions that it will end in during their time on earth. Noel Ignatiev got a little group going toward the “abolition of whiteness,” but it never got anywhere significant, and eventually died out, because the rest of the academic workers in what became a field of study saw that abolition of the idea of a white race just wasn’t going to happen any time soon (aside from his proffered methods just being bad tactics). And no academic workers that I know of breathed a sigh of relief while thinking that the decline of the white abolitionists, and the obstinacy of white supremacy, meant that their life’s work toward that eventual goal would be able to continue until retirement. Most have recognized that such large-scale change will only occur incrementally, and they hope that their work contributes to that change.

As for another of your charges against academic publishing, why do you think that it requires the conditions that leftist academics fight, write and teach against to continue? Again, those conditions are not going to suddenly go away, and no one that I know of who is writing against them in academic modes thinks they will. And even if they did, tenured academics who write against oppression can certainly find other modes to write against. As you wrote about white people, try to imagine for a second that there are academics who are other than all-powerful.

I would also counter your familiar canard that (as I’m reading your comment) academic writing is out of touch with the real world, and unnecessarily inscrutable to ordinary readers, but it’s not worth the bother. Those are old, boring issues, really. Basically, I find your cynicism unwarranted.

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I’m sorry. I responded to you candidly and in a spirit of openness, even indicating that questionable nature of my recollection. You replied with a combination of accusation, argumentativeness, and obstinate snark, which I found unwarranted, simplistic, and unproductive.

Have a confused and muddled rest of your day!


Ah. A meme idiot. I should have known.

A “meme idiot”? Welcome to today’s internets, old chap.

And you accuse ME of obstinate, unwarranted snark?

Nice job of further failing to deal with everything I took the time and care to write in response to your comments.

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