I came across this essay by Prof. Asma Barlas [ link ], entitled Racism’s Labyrinth. It’s a quick read, but quite interesting on a number of levels. An excerpt:
Whether white people want to claim their whiteness or not, whiteness claims them by positioning them as potential saviors of people of color. Liberals speak on our behalf; feminists tutor us, and conservatives discipline us, all of which are ways of saving us from ourselves. I am no stranger to the Catholic redemption narrative, but what I find foreign are the salvational pedagogies of a racism that is packaged as a secular good. Having dispensed with the idea of a religious savior, it seems Western secular democracies have embraced a racial logic that allows all white people to play at being redeemers. Now, everyone can save me, though for what reward, remains debatable.
Even though this secular whiteness feels foreign to me, I don’t use my foreign-ness as an alibi to seek an out from U.S. racial politics unlike many immigrants who dislike being racialized. Distancing oneself from this politics does not indemnify one from the violence of racism and, more crucially, it forecloses the possibility of fighting against it. Ironically, then, it is also racism that allows me to differentiate myself politically by seeking solidarities with people with whom I do not share a common religion or history or culture. If there were no racism, our lives would not intersect in the quite ways in which they do.
There’s a lot that can be talked about here, especially as relates to us as adoptees. It might be interesting to start with the “debatable” as posed in the essay. To what “reward” or “rewards” do the citizens of “Western secular democracies” “play” at being “redeemers”? If we balk at our own redemption, does this explain the negative reaction toward us? How valid to accuse those who “bow out” of racialized politics as being equally invested in that politic’s violence?
Expand upon and ask questions as you see fit.