After reading Barbara Smith’s “Racism and Women’s Studies” there was a particular quote that caught my eye. The quote seems to be an underlying theme so far according to our readings and class discussions. Her quote is as follows. “What is your fault is making no serious effort to change old patterns of contempt- to look at how you still believe yourselves to be superior.” This goes hand and hand with Johnson’s idea that “we are all part of the problem” when it comes to dealing with racism and oppression.
In the eyes of the author’s Smith and Johnson not talking about the issue of racism does not make this huge issue go away; it is still as Johnson would say the “elephant in the room.” Barbara Smith says that this is not a “guilt trip,” but rather a “fear trip” simply because it is not an issue that most feel comfortable discussing. Just like Johnson, Smith is not afraid by any means to bring to the surface the issue of racism and oppression. In fact, she is even more willing to convey her opinion as well as relate to the subject at hand due to the fact that she is an African American woman. Johnson mentioned in his article that he felt “awkward” and “could not relate” to the African American woman he had lunch with. Barbara Smith would not at all be surprised with a statement like this because she feels that white people have been “raised not knowing how to talk to Black women, not knowing how to look us in the eye and laugh with us.” According to her, being “polite and civil” to Black women does not mean that a person is not racist.
All in all what impressed me the most about Smith and Johnson was their ability to shed light on an ongoing problem that the world and our country can’t seem to fix. Although Johnson was a bit more conservative in his approach I think it is good to hear and learn about individuals like Smith’s experiences. Maybe the more information we get regarding the emotions of those affected by racism will help us to learn about more about ourselves and how we can shake the fact that we “are part of the problem.”
My question for the class is how do we stay away from being part of the problem? What actions can we take as a group? What can we say? Are there any signs of encouragement? I believe there is progress being made, but after reading Barbara Smith’s work maybe there isn’t