Chris Crass, an activist, educator, and organizer with an impressive history of engagement in local and national initiatives and popular movements will be coming to Asheville to speak at the UU Congregation of Asheville and other events in the local area in April. We are excited to have Chris with us and we hope you will be too. To help introduce you to Chris and help us all get ready to engage in our conversations around collective liberation, here is a short selection reposted from the Oberlin Review followed by some recommendations for further readings:
Author, educator and organizer Chris Crass is often at the forefront of multiracial and feminist movements. Crass sat down with the Review this week to talk about his experience as an activist and his thoughts on antiracist organizing […]
Could you begin by talking about the difference between racist and anti-racist organizing?
It’s a really common experience for white people who are socially conscious and who are coming to awareness about issues of race […] There’s going to be a lot of folks — white folks in particular — being like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t thought about this before,’ or, ‘I didn’t think it was this bad,’ or, ‘I thought this was something that was in the past,’ or ‘I don’t want to be part of the problem,’ and then one of the first next steps [ for those groups] is often the question of how to diversify. […] [T]he question that’s often more helpful is, ‘How can we be a part of challenging racism? How can we be a part of ending institutional white supremacy? What are positive steps, as a white environmental group, we could take to support environmental justice efforts by students of color?’ One of the ways that white supremacy really impacts white people is to invisible-ize the work that’s happening in communities of color, the leadership that’s happening in communities of color, the voices, the perspectives — sometimes you’ll have white activists come to consciousness about race and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get people of color to join our group,’ and then there’ll be activists of color who will be like, ‘Well, we’ve been working on these issues for a really long time, so rather than coming to us and asking us to diversify your group, it’s more of how could you, as a mostly white group, support the work that students of color are already involved in and build partnership and trust.’
How would you explain the reality of institutional racism to someone who might not be familiar with its historical and cultural background?
No one was born with it all figured out. First of all, the way that racism operates is that it socializes and rewards white people to be completely ignorant of racism. The fact that there are so many white people who feel attacked, or who think that it’s racist to even talk about racism, is evidence of how powerful racism operates. Because in communities of color, historically and today, the impacts of racism are so stark. Often white people today look back at white people in the past — whether it’s the white people who were participating, supporting, oblivious [to] or on the sidelines of slavery, or white people who were supportive or on the sidelines of Jim Crow and apartheid in the sixties — and say, ‘How could they have just done nothing?’ [They think] it’s so obvious. People 30 years from now will look back on us today and say, ‘How could white people have not been aware of the mass incarceration, of the mass poverty, of the incredible disparities and not done something?’ […] [We have to] recognize that we need to make a choice [about] what side of history we want to stand on. It can be a hard journey, but it’s one that ultimately connects us back to our deepest humanity. [We need to get] away from fear, away from ignorance, away from hate and toward a deeper love for ourselves and the people in our community. [People say,] ‘Well, the reason there’s so many black and brown people in prison is because of these reasons,’ and there’s all this justification in the way that the media portrays it, and throughout history that’s always been true.
If you would like to learn more about anti-racist organizing and collective liberation before Chris Crass arrives, the Earth and Social Justice Ministries of UUCA, Allies for Racial Equity, and the UUA include the following titles in their collections. We recommend reading one or more of these titles for a more complete understanding of racial and class issues to further our commitment to a more just society:
The New Jim Crow – by Michelle Alexander
Sacred Ground – by Eboo Patel
Behind the Kitchen Door – by Saru Jayaraman
Toward Collective Liberation – by Chris Crass
Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power – by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy
If you would like to buy these books on your own, please consider supporting the UUA bookstore or local cooperative bookstore Firestorm Cafe and Books with your purchasing power. You may also be able to purchase or borrow these books by contacting Elizabeth Mount at 720-560-5680.