Assessment Tools

The following posts provide opportunities for self assessment.  Here a person can evaluate for themselves where they have been, where they are and where they are hoping to go on the journey of dealing with racism; white privilege, supremacy, fragility, and their ramifications.

A recent survey of 222 White medical students and residents showed that 50% of them endorsed at least one myth about the physiological differences between Black people and White people (for example, Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive so they are less susceptible to pain.) This makes them less likely to recommend appropriate treatments. One third of these doctors believed that Black skin is just thicker than White skin. Racial biases that people take with them to their jobs everyday continue to harm Blacks in frightening ways all over this country. *National Academy of Sciences

Read through the Detour Spotting section at the bottom of the page.

How about you?

…But I’m Not Racist, Right?

…But I’m Not Racist, Right?

Understanding by Kathy Obear | The full article on The Center for Transformation and Change website is here… Excerpt from the article… I remember when one of my deepest fears as a white person was to be called racist! Today, I don’t label people as racist, but instead...

read more
Black Lives Matter Test

Black Lives Matter Test

Understandingby IDRlabs International | Black Lives Matter Test is here… How much do you agree with Black Lives Matter? Black Lives Matter is an activist movement dedicated to protesting against police brutality. Due to the decentralized nature of the movement,...

read more
Are You Racist? This Quiz May Clear Your Doubts!

Are You Racist? This Quiz May Clear Your Doubts!

UnderstandingNote: There are assessment tools which truly show where we are and then there are ones designed to makes us feel good.  Sometimes its okay to get an ego boost as is true from this "test" otherwise choose the next  Implicit Association Test. Rabbi Simcha...

read more
Implicit Association Test

Implicit Association Test

Self assessment is critical for being able to address racism in ourselves and society. Without reflection real progress can not be made.

read more
The Racist Stairs

The Racist Stairs

Which step are you on?
Circumstances as well as attitudes will influence where you are;
there is no goal but awareness.

read more
White Fragility

White Fragility

White fragility is a hindrance to racial healing because it prevents honest conversation. Ask yourself the following (16 questions total).

read more

Detour Spotting — for White Anti-Racists

Attitudes or behaviors that indicate a detour or wrong turn into white guilt, denial or defensiveness.

by Jona Olsson, © jona olsson   January 1997, 2005, 2011, cultural bridges to justice, HC 81 Box 7015, Questa NM  87556 USA

1) I’m Colorblind

“People are just people; I don’t see color; we’re all just human.” or “I don’t think of you as Chinese.” or “We all bleed red when we’re cut.” or “Character, not color, is what counts with me.”

Reality Check and Consequence

Statements like these assume that people of color are just like me, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, peeves that I do. “Colorblindness” negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color, and most importantly, their experience as a target of racism. Even if an individual white person could ignore a person’s color, the society does not. By saying we are not different, that we don’t see their color, we are also saying we don’t see my white-ness. This denies their experience of racism and our experience of privilege.

“I’m colorblind” can also be a defense when afraid to discuss racism, especially if one assumes all conversation about race or color is racist. Speaking of another person’s color or culture is not necessarily racist or offensive. As one of my African American friends says, “I don’t mind that you notice I’m Black.” Color consciousness does not equal racism.

2)  The Rugged Individual, the Level Playing Field and the Bootstrap Theory

“America is the land of opportunity, built by rugged individuals, where anyone with grit can succeed if they just pull up hard enough on their bootstraps.”

Reality Check and Consequence

These are three of the crown jewels of U. S. social propaganda. They have allowed generation after generation to say, “If you succeed, you did that, but if you fail, or if you’re poor, that’s your fault.”  Belief in this propaganda is founded in a total denial of the impact of either oppression or privilege on any person’s chance for success.

Attacks on programs like affirmative action find rationalization in the belief that the playing field is now level, that is, that every individual, regardless of color (or gender or disability, etc.) has the same access to the rights, benefits and responsibilities of the society. The rationalization continues: since slavery is ended and people of color have civil rights, the playing field has now been leveled. It follows then, that there is no reason for a person of color to “fail” (whether manifested in low SAT scores or small numbers in management positions) EXCEPT individual character flaws or cultural inadequacies. This form of denial asserts that such “failures” could have no roots in racism and internalized racism.

The consequences include “justified” victim blaming, and denial of the daily impact of generations of institutionalized racism and white privilege.

3) Reverse Racism
  1. “People of color are just as racist as white people.”
    “Affirmative Action had a role years ago, but today it’s just reverse racism; now it’s discriminating against white men.”
  2. “The civil rights movement, when it began was appropriate, valuable, needed. But it’s gone to the extreme. The playing field is now level. Now the civil rights movement is no longer working for equality but for revenge.” or
  3. Black Pride, Black Power is dangerous. They just want power over white people.” (Include here any reference to pride and empowerment of any people of color.)
Reality Check and Consequence
  1. Let’s first define racism:
    Racism = Racial Prejudice (white people and people of color have this) plus systemic, institutional power (white people only have this in US.) To say people of color can be racist, denies the power imbalance inherent in institutionalized racism.  Certainly, people of color can be and are prejudiced against white people. That was a part of their societal conditioning. A person of color can act on their prejudices to insult even hurt a white person. But there is a difference between being hurt and being oppressed. People of color, as a social group, do not have the societal, institutional power to oppress white people as a group. An individual person of color abusing a white person – while clearly wrong, (no person should be insulted, hurt, etc.) is acting out a personal racial prejudice, not racism (by this power definition.)
  2. This form of denial is based in the false notion that the playing field is now level. When the people with privilege and historical access and advantage are expected to suddenly (in societal evolution time) share some of that power, it is often perceived as discrimination.
  3. is a statement by Rush Limbaugh. Though, clearly he is no anti-racist, both 3 & 4 follow closely on the heels of “reverse racism” and are loaded with white people’s fear of people of color and what would happen if they gained “control.” Embedded here is also the assumption that to be “pro-Black” (or any color) is to be anti-white. (A similar illogical accusation is directed at women who work for an end to violence against women and girls. Women who work to better the lives of women are regularly accused of being “anti-male.”)
4) Blame The Victim

“We have advertised everywhere, there just aren’t any qualified people of color for this job.” or “If he only worked harder, applied himself more, or had a stronger work ethic.” or “If she just felt better about herself…” or “Internalized racism is the real problem here.” or “She uses racism as an excuse, to divert us from her incompetence.” and “If he didn’t go looking for racism everywhere…”

Reality Check and Consequence

All “blame the victim” behaviors have two things in common. First, they evade the real problem: racism. Second, they delete from the picture the agents of racism, white people and institutions, who either intentionally perpetuate or unintentionally collude with racism. (Similar to agent deletion in discussions of rape. Most statements refer to a woman being raped, focus on her clothing or behavior at the time of the rape and delete the male rapist from the picture.) As long as the focus remains on people of color we can minimize or dismiss their reactions, and never have to look directly at racism and our own responsibility or collusion.

5) The White Knight or White Missionary

“We (white people) know just where to build your new community center.” or “Your young people (read youth of color) would be better served by traveling to our suburban training center.” or “We (white people) organized a used clothing drive for you, where do you want us to put the clothes?”

Reality Check and Consequence

It is a racist, paternalistic assumption that well meaning white people know what’s best for people of color. Decisions, by white people, are made on behalf of people of color, as though they were incapable of making their own. This is another version of “blame the victim” and white is right. It places the problems at the feet of people of color, and the only “appropriate” solutions with white people. Once more the power of self-determination is taken away from people of color. Regardless of motive, it is still about white control.

6)  Lighten Up (lighten? whiten?)

“Black people are just are too sensitive and thin-skinned.” or “Indians should get a sense of humor. We’re just kidding around.” or “I didn’t mean anything racist, it’s just a joke.”

Reality Check and Consequence

Here are racism and agent deletion in partnership again. The problem and perpetrators are exonerated, because the rationale declares that humor isn’t hurtful. This form of denial serves most to trivialize the pain and reality of daily racism.

7) Don’t Blame Me

“I never owned slaves.” or “I didn’t vote for David Duke.” or “None of my family joined the Klan.” or “I taught my children that racism is wrong.”

Reality Check and Consequence

Often white people hear blame whenever the issue of racism is brought up,

whether or not blame has been placed on us. As beneficiaries of racism and white privilege, we sometimes strike a defensive posture even when we are not being individually blamed. We may personalize the remarks, put ourselves in the center, but most references to racism are not directed personally at us. It is the arrogance of our privilege, that drags the focus back to us.

When we are being blamed or personally accused of racist behavior, this defensiveness and denial further alienates us and probably precludes our examining our possible racist behavior.

8) BWAME

But What About Me. Look how I’ve been hurt, oppressed, exploited…?”

Reality Check and Consequence

This diminishes the experience of people of color by telling our own story of hardship. We lose an opportunity to learn more about the experience of racism from a person of color, while we minimize their experience by trying to make it comparable or less painful than ours.

9)  We Have Overcome

“We dealt with racism in the 60’s with all the marches, sit-ins and speeches by Dr. King. Laws have been changed. Segregation and lynching are ended. We have some details to work out but real racism is pretty much a thing of the past.”

Reality Check and Consequence

The absence of legalized, enforced segregation does not equal the end of racism. This denial of contemporary racism, based on inaccurate assessment of both history and current society, romanticizes the past and diminishes today’s reality.

We just have to look at the volcanic rise of racist hate groups during the campaign and since the election of President Barack Obama, to know racism is alive and well in the United States.

10) The End Run, Escapism

“Of course, racism is terrible, but what about sexism? or classism? or heterosexism?” or “Racism is a result of classism (or choose any other oppression,) so if we just work on that, racism will end, too.”

Reality Check and Consequence

I agree with Audre Lorde’s statement, “There is no hierarchy of oppression.” I would not establish a rank order for oppressions. At the same time, we cannot attempt to evade recognition and responsibility for any form of oppression. Statements like the ones above divert attention away from racial injustice to focus on some other form of oppression. They are usually said by white people (women, working class people, Lesbians, gay men or others) who experience both white privilege and oppression in some form. We are all more willing and more comfortable decrying our oppression than scrutinizing our privilege. Oppressions are so inextricably linked that if we allow our fear, guilt and denial to constantly divert us from confronting racism, even while we work to dismantle other forms, no oppression will ever be dismantled.

Below are some highlights from the rest of this material. Please follow this link for the whole document.

12) Innocence By Association

“I’m not racist, because… I have Vietnamese friends, or my lover is Black, or I marched with Dr. King.”

Reality Check and Consequence

(Perhaps, if every white person who says they marched with Dr. King actually had, the current situation would look different!)

This detour into denial wrongly equates personal interactions with people of color, no matter how intimate they may be, with anti-racism. There is an assumption that our personal associations free us magically from our racist conditioning.

14) The White Wash

 “He’s really a very nice guy, he’s just had some bad experiences with Koreans.” or “That’s just the way Uncle Adolf jokes. He’s very polite to the Black janitor in his building.”

Reality Check and Consequence

This “detour” is another manifestation of our guilt. We attempt to excuse, defend or cover up the racist actions of other white people. We are particularly prone to this if the other person is a family member or friend, or if we feel their actions may reflect on us.

15) Not Here In Lake Wobegon

“We don’t have a racism problem here at this (school, organization, community)” or “We didn’t have a racism problem in this town until that Mexican family moved here.”

Reality Check and Consequence

As white people we do not have to think about racism when our school, organization or community is all white. Racism does not usually become apparent TO US until there are people of color in our frame of reference.

16) I Was An Indian In a Former Life 

 “After that sweat lodge I really know what it feels like to be an Indian. I have found my true spiritual path.”

Reality Check and Consequence

This is spiritual or cultural appropriation and poses a serious threat to the integrity and survival of Native cultures. To fill a void in their own spiritual core, some white people are drawn into the New Age garden to pick from a variety of Native spiritual practices usually offered for sale. (White writers, such as Lynn Andrews and others, garner high profits from fictitious “Indian” writing and teaching, while many Native writers can’t find publishers.) Since Native spiritual practice is inseparable from history and current community, it cannot be disconnected from that context to service white people searching for life’s meaning. Appropriating selected parts of Native cultures romanticizes the lives of Native peoples while denying their struggles. Their land and livelihoods stolen, indigenous peoples now see white people trying to steal their spirituality. Rather than escape our white racism by finding a spiritual path, we instead collude in one more way with the genocidal attacks on Native cultures.

18) The Isolationist

“I thought we resolved this issue (racism) when it came up on the board last year.” or “We need to deal with this specific incident. Let’s not complicate it by bringing other irrelevant issues into it.” or “This incident only happened today because the TV news last night showed police beating that Black kid.”

Reality Check and Consequence

Attempts are made to isolate a particular incident of racism from of the larger context. We blame a publicized incident of racism outside our organization to rationalize an internal incident and to avoid facing the reality of racism within. When trying to resolve an accusation of racism within an institution, we often see the incident in a vacuum, or as an aberration, in isolation from an historic pattern of racism in this institution and nation. Racism has been institutionalized so that every “incident” is another symptom of the pattern. When we continue to react incident-to-incident, crisis-to-crisis, as though they are unconnected, we will find genuine resolution only further from our reach.

20) Teach Me or Help Me, I’m Stuck

“I want to stop acting like a racist, so please tell me when I do something you think is racist.” (Spoken to a person of color.)

Reality Check and Consequence

White people often assume that they can learn about racism only from people of color. We further assume that people of color have the energy and/or desire to do this teaching. My understanding is that most people of color are weary of educating white people about racism.

We will get stuck. We’ll get frustrated and impatient with ourselves and other white people in this struggle. We’ll stay stuck if we don’t seek help from other white anti-racists. Our inclination in the past has been to ask people of color to help us. We should seek out other white people BEFORE we go to people of color. Perhaps, as we become more trustworthy as allies, we will build genuine relationships with a few people of color who will offer their reflections for us when we get stuck. But this is at their discretion, not ours. We can’t assume or act as though people of color should be so grateful for our attempts at anti-racism, that they will be willing to guide us whenever we are ready to be guided.

22) Smoke and Mirrors

We use the current politically correct language; we listen to the right music; we state the liberal line; we’re seen at the right meetings with the right people. We even interrupt racist remarks when the right people are watching and when there is no risk to us. We look like anti-racists.

Reality Check and Consequence

This is the “Avon Ally,” the cosmetic approach. People of color and other white anti-racists see through this pretense quickly. This pseudo-anti-racist posturing only serves to collude with racism and weakens the credibility of sincere white anti-racists.

26) The “Certificate of Innocence”

 Some times we seek or expect from people of color some public or private recognition and appreciation for our anti-racism. Other times we are looking for a “certificate of innocence” telling us we are one of the good white people.

Reality Check and Consequence

If our ally commitment depends on positive reinforcement from people of color, we set ourselves up for sure failure. The first time a person of color is displeased with our

actions, we could respond, “Well, if the very people I’m doing all this for don’t want my help, then why bother?” Clearly, we’re challenging racism for “them” not for us. We have not identified our self-interest, as a white person, for fighting racism. Until we do, we will not be able to sustain this lifelong journey.

28) Exhaustion and Despair – Sound the Retreat

“I’m exhausted. I’m only one person. I can stop and rest for a while.” or “Racism is so pervasive and entrenched, there just isn’t any hope.”

Reality Check and Consequence

Despair is a real enemy of anti-racists. If our commitment is a lifelong one, we must find ways to mitigate the effects. Neither burn-out nor desertion are of any use to the struggle. We can remember men who jumped on a “Take Back the Night” bandwagon, challenging violence against women – for a while. Until the attention on them as good men waned. Until the “glamour” of the issue faded. One of the historical, repeated failures of “liberals” in social justice movements has been their short-term and inconsistent commitment to the “issue du jour.

If we quit, for any reason, we are engaging our “default option.” (5) As white people, we can rest, back off, and take a break from the frustration and despair of anti-racism work. There will be no significant consequence to us for this retreat. White people will not think less of us. Racism doesn’t allow such a respite for people of color. One of the elemental privileges of being white is my freedom to retreat from the issue of racism. If things get too tough I can always take a break. And our work against racism doesn’t get done.

Introduction

Definitions

Facts rocks with sun

Facts

Maps

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Performance Art

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Performance Art

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Introduction

Wood Stack Definitions Menu

Definitions

Facts

Maps

Dear White People

Being Allies

James, Rachel, Dragon

Reparations

Three Candles

Spiritual Foundations

Slave Owners Are in Your Pocket

Public Displays

Theater PTown

Performance Art

Maze

Workshops

Freedom and Justice Crier

Activist Resources

Assessment Tools

Appropriation & Aggression

White Privilege

White Supremacy

Introduction

Wood Stack Definitions Menu

Definitions

Facts

Maps