Racial Objectivity

We at ConSpirita Consulting Network are committed to improving leadership, especially ecclesial leadership.  These times of a global pandemic and a global awakening about racism cry out for courageous and humble leaders.  This series of blogs invite you to come along with us as we humbly, courageously, and consistently undertake the work of self-education about racism in the United States, in the Catholic Church and in our own white, privileged lives.

I have a new grandson, my only grandchild, on whom the sun rises and sets.  He’s exceptional in every way, even though he is only 4 months old.  I see him destined for great things.  I love this child with all my being so could never be objective about him.  I can never be free of the bias I have in his favor.

It’s this inability to be objective that is the second part of the concept of socialization of which Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, speaks,  “Objectivity tells us that it is possible to be free of all bias.”  How could we possibly believe that we could be free from bias?  We are all molded by socialization which contains certain biases even if we wish they did not.  Humans just cannot be totally objective about our own beliefs and behaviors.  DiAngelo says, “These ideologies <individualism and objectivity> make it very difficult for white people to explore the collective aspects of the white experience.”  In other words, we believe we are so unique and different from others (individualism) that we can function without bias (objectivity).  But that is just not how we humans are wired.  Just as I cannot exempt myself from my bias for my grandson, neither can we be totally nonbiased about racial groupings.

It seems to me that deep reflection on our beliefs and ideologies would move us closer to an anti-racist society.  DiAngelo says, “…reflecting on our racial frames is particularly challenging for many white people, because we are taught that to have a racial viewpoint is to be biased.  Unfortunately, this belief protects our biases, because denying that we have them ensures that we won’t examine or change them.”

You might hear people say, “I don’t see color,“ as if this reveals their anti-racist beliefs.  What that statement reveals, using DiAngelo’s reasoning, is really the unwillingness or inability to admit that we do see color, even if we don’t want to, and even worse, that we deny the very dignity and culture that comes with seeing color.  Both are parts of racism and if we don’t examine these kinds of statements and attitudes, then we can’t change them.

So, if socialization with the forces of individualism and objectivity are so deeply embedded in our lives, how can we escape any type of racism?  It’s simple, DiAngelo says, we can’t.  This sounds like both a relief and a disappointment.  In the Conclusion paragraph of Chapter 5, she says, “Racism is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that I do not see myself escaping from that continuum in my lifetime.  But I can continually seek to move further along it.”  I concur with her conclusion.  I may not reach anti-racism in my lifetime, but I can pass along its practices to my sweet grandson so that maybe, he will get farther along the continuum than I got.


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.