EWU to Host Discussion about Racism in Liberal Groups
Progressives avoid talking about racism due to fear instead of addressing it directly.
News Story by Emma Ledbetter | FāVS News
Eastern Washington University is hosting a discussion about racism and classism on Thursday, featuring a lecture by Angie Beeman, who will speak about her recent book “How Liberals Silence Racial and Class Oppression.”
Beeman, an associate professor in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College-CUNY, studied various scenarios in which progressives avoid talking about racism due to discomfort or fear. By not talking about discrimination that is occurring, they are thwarting their own anti-racist efforts.
“The idea is that progressive communities are where you’ll get people talking about racism and sharing strategies to address it,” Beeman said. “But that’s where we need to look for where we can be doing better.”
Many progressives Beeman interviewed shared that they fear discussing racism will cause more divides in an already divided society.
“They might see themselves as strong anti-racist allies, but they’re doing harm to people of color in their organizations,” Beeman said. “It’s the idea of ‘we walk the walk, so we don’t need to talk the talk.’”
People of color at EWU have reported experiencing racism, discrimination or disparaging comments from people who claim to be anti-racist, said Kassahun Kebede, associate professor of Sociology and Justice Studies at EWU and recipient of the Jeffers W. Chertok Memorial Endowed Professorship.
Liberal white supremacy is not something most people know exists, he said, but it occurs — especially within power dynamics related to class.
By hosting the lecture series, Kebede said he wanted to highlight the complexity of the issue and show people that a forward-facing society should not have discrimination.
For example, progressive people may say unkind things about people who disagree with them, Kebede said. You can disagree with the person, but you can’t say demeaning things such as “white trash,” which inadvertently reinforce social injustice by engaging in classist behavior and maintaining a moral superiority over others.
Beeman said her research is not just for people who identify as politically progressive; she has interviewed people across the political spectrum who want to know what they can be doing better to fight against oppression.
EWU will host future lectures about immigration and refugee issues as part of the Chertok Professorship lecture series, Kebede said.