The Human Touch

When it comes to successful anti-racist activism, Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious reminds us that facts and statistics aren’t enough to instill change; focusing on the human dimension is a more effective method of inspiration:

When I think back on how my own views about race have evolved over my lifetime, I realize that some of the most profound shifts in my thinking resulted not from reading theoretical treatises, but from learning about specific individuals’ experiences.

Before I read Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace: Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, for example, I was a staunch believer in rugged individualism. It was Kozol’s unflinchingly vivid portraits of the day-to-day experiences of black and Latino children in Mott Haven that made me realize just how self-righteous and privileged I was to believe we were all on a level playing field.

We can (and should) talk all day long about employment discrimination, racial disparities in sentencing, redlining, disproportionate healthcare, voter suppression, segregation in public schools, the prison-industrial complex, and more.

But by solely discussing racism in such aggregate and abstract terms, I worry that we will lose sight of the real reason all of this matters. Racism is a problem not merely because it represents some abstract sense of societal injustice. It’s a problem because of the hurt, pain, anger, and suffering it causes to individual human beings.

[…]

If we want to mobilize people to take action against racism, facts and statistics are not enough. We need to put a human face on these issues.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

(Oh, and congrats to Latoya Peterson, new editor of Racialicious! Check out this open thread for some examples of what Peterson has planned for the future, and to put your two cents in, too.)

Related: Terrence McNally talks to clinical psychologist Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, on how progressives need to appeal to the emotions of voters to be successful in political endeavors. Also check out this in-depth three part series by Sara Robinson, who contends that, by studying, emulating, and appropriating the strategy and tactics of movement conservatism, USian progressives might possibly regain control of the national discourse from the right.

–Edited by Kathy

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