Specifically in relation to what is rapidly becoming an overt theme (probably about time): frustration on the part of POC at "the silence of our [white, 'liberal/progressive'] friends."
I admit that the following may turn out to be an overly generous take, after alll; but i thought it was worth at least elucidating.
As I'm seeing it: well, yes, there is massive defensiveness going on (hello), and certainly it is related to hitherto unexamined white privilege (whatever you think of the term "privilege," okay; there is shit going on that a lot of people haven't really considered before, because they hadn't had to, is the gist, and it stings when other people point this out).
So why the defensiveness? Well, one answer is that people don't want to give up their privilege. And I'm not saying that that isn't going on. My question is: well, what does that really mean wrt yer average bleeding-heart liberal gone suddenly defensive? What's the privilege being asked to be given up, really; or what do people think is meant by this? And my tentative answer, in part, at least, was this:
(n.b. to a certain extent i think that this is also roughly applicable to, for example, "male privilege" in feminist discussions, "straight privilege" in liberal/progressive het-dominated discussions about gay rights, and a few other things. as always, it depends on context and what's actually being said. and class, i think, the following may not translate as well, as in that instance material privileges are very much on peoples' minds, the privileged that is, arguably more so than in the other instances. Anyway, without further ado):
(gah: italicized inserts are Donna's remarks, which i am responding to. NOW, without further ado):
As I've said elsewhere, I think the problem, or part of it, is that for way too many white people the understanding of "racism" begins and ends with something like this:
1) Racists are terrible awful people who do not have blood running through their veins like you and I, but a sticky black ichor...
2) I am a Good Person
3) Therefore, I cannot be a racist.
4) Lather, rinse, repeat.
1) There is no distinction between "that there statement/action was racist" and "the author of said statement/whatever IS racist"
2) Once tarred with the epithet "racist," one is forever Doomed To Badness
3) This includes "hey, when you say such and so, that has racist connotations, did you know? (see #1)
4) See A: Lather, rinse, repeat.
How one convinces people otherwise is of course another question. It seems like careful and clear explanations in Earthspeak don't make much of a dent, although of course it is sometimes hard to tell when dealing with large GROUPS of people as in these blog discussions (hence added frustration).
>I believe that some are willfully blind to white privilege, because the way to fight institutional racism means that whites must give up some of their advantages, affirmative action is one of these, hiring more minorities means there are less openings for whites.>
Ironically, as a side note, a lot of the same (white) women who make very similar sounding statements wrt defensive men (i.e. you just don't want to give up male privilege) just don't see this at all when it comes to the possibility of THEMSELVES being in the "oppressive majority" seat.
I have a slightly different take on the whole thing, although I certainly don't rule out the possibility of what you're saying wrt being reluctant to give up privilege. of course, if this is true, then it suggests a certain...consciousness of what one is saying and doing; i.e. deliberate disingenuousness. as i see it. just saying. again: in some cases it may well be true.
but: here's another possibility. (consider this "in addition to," not "instead of:")
When you say:
>A substantial subset of the white liberal audience simply does not want to listen to or deal with POC.>
...actually, I think an overwhelming majority of liberal folks--hell, people in general--don't want to hear anything they don't already know. Particularly if it means having to rearrange comfortable thought patterns. It may be as concrete as "fuck, then I might not get as good a job," but it doesn't have to be. And in fact, as I'm observing it, a lot of the most stridently defensive white liberals are probably FOR affirmative action (for example) (i would have to really do a more thorough study to confirm that hypothesis, i admit). But: there's no question that a lot of folks are terribly terribly anxious to not be -thought- racist.
When it comes to high-profile political climbers like Hamsher, I think it's probably safe to say that at least some of this supposed desire to be friendly toward "minorities" is pretty cynically calculated: yesyes, make the gestures toward "tolerance" and then get back to what's important, i.e. Winning as much goodie for Our Team as possible. and while Our Team might be able to make way for the occasional representative of color, frankly there just are only so many slots available, and, well, "we' need the rest of them. iow: not a terrifically democratic impulse, this, at best.
But for Joe Schmo on the Internets, well, yeah, there's a lot of confused defensiveness as the newfound liberal "thou shalt nots" struggle for dominance over long-ingrained habits of culturally & parentally ingested racism (among other things); but probably the reason Joe S. turned to liberalism in the first place was that Joe S. wanted to be "good." Did NOT want to be part of the greedy power-grabbing motherfuckers; count me out. Thus: diversity, tolerance, yadda: it may be a shallow understanding, but in many cases i do believe it's not just calculated lip service: it's just all they understand.
Here's the problem, though. Because of a number of factors which are probably too complex to really explore here (and i confess i really don't have the answers myself, although i think about this shit a lot lately), the way forward, the "consciousness raising," if you will, is largely understood to be a process of guilt-tripping, pretty much. That is, what is perhaps an inevitable byproduct ("oh, fuck, i belong to such and such a demographic; look what 'we've' done; goddam, we suck, and me too by extension") becomes elevated to the only possible way to go about...whatever it is, being a "good liberal," being an "ally," being whatever.
Trouble with that is, as much as people will tell themselves and each other that in fact a generous helping of guilt is GOOD for you, just suck it up, this is the way forward; truth is, nobody -really- likes feeling guilty/shamed. And the people who are the most strident proponents of "feel bad! this is the way forward!" are, ime, people who are, perhaps not consciously, of the opinion that in fact their work is pretty much finished. Iow: yeah, the consciousness raising was unpleasant, but thank God, it's over. Now my job is to help enlighten the rest of you unconscious folks.
So of course when someone comes along and goes, "um, actually? Not so fast there, bucko: you've never even considered THIS, have you?" then of COURSE they're gonna get hyper-defensive: fuck, i have to go through all that unpleasantness AGAIN?? i'm STILL a bad person instead of a bad person who made some amends? fuck that noise. no, the problem is YOU, clearly!
also of course: ego blow. "What do you MEAN there's shit I didn't already know or even consider? I am the very model of a well-enlightened liberal!"
particularly if it's coming from a source that isn't already trusted: many such folks will consider criticism of this sort more carefully if it comes from someone they already know don't think they're Bad People.
unfortunately, such people are likely to be the ones in their inner circle; the folks in their inner circle are quite likely to NOT be (for example) people of color, in large part because of the very structural/unconscious racism we are talking about (Bird of a Feather Flock Together); therefore, the criticism which comes from the POC "outsider" is gonna be treated as an ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK.
Later, rinse, repeat.
The way out of this, I maintain, is to maybe just let the fuck go of some of the endless self-flagellation, fun as it is for the whole family; and just cultivate more basic curiousity.
Because imo that is the OTHER root of the problem here: not nearly enough people are terribly -interested- in the people whose rights they supposedly want to protect. They may not wish them any ill; they may MEAN well; but, well, again: a lot of people don't want to know what they don't already know.
Because that is sort of existentially uncomfortable-making.
It's one thing to give up one's (concrete) privileges; some may be more defensive about that than others, sure. But it's yet something else to be willing to rearrange one's whole worldview; that experience is, well, profoundly unsettling, and most people don't care for it. and the people, as I've said, who are pretty well convinced that they've ALREADY DONE THAT (and particularly with the extra-unpleasant experience of "fuck, i just suck, then" added on), are probably gonna be even -less- likely to want to do this.
But, well, that's what has to be done, as a continual process; or nothing's gonna really change.
and the good news is, it -doesn't have to be so upsetting.-
It can actually be, well, kind of fun and exciting. Look! Something I had no idea about! Wow! New people! New ideas! New ways of doing shit! Oh, wow!
And while that basic curiousity is probably not enough in and of itself, it is, i would say, necessary, if not sufficient for genuine empathy; which in turn is necessary (if not sufficient) for genuine coalition-building, ally work, what you will; which in -its- turn is necessary-if-not-sufficient for, in Kevin of Slant Truth's words, "transformative politics."
That, to me, would be real "consciousness raising."
And is ultimately the goal of not just genuinely "progressive," (liberal, what you will) politics, but of, well, life. Frankly.