Since I’ve been baited a few times recently as a white savior, I’ve got something to say about that. I don’t blame black or brown-hued people for being wary about the intentions of whites. But when it gets in the way of political solidarity, it becomes an issue–even though most often it comes from someone trying to demean & undercut solidarity. Like Sam Hamad who called me a white savior with a “fetish” for Palestinians because he opposes BDS & the designation of Israel as a colonial & apartheid state.

My generation went through the civil rights movement where the US transitioned from segregation in the north & apartheid in the south. It was an aborted process, politically reversed by using the so-called war on drugs against the Black community, particularly youth. But that tsunamic social struggle changed attitudes toward Blacks, Latinos, & American Indians from contempt to respect, even if it didn’t change the most malignant institutional forms, especially in employment.

Racism is inculcated through segregation which is why segregation is a pivot of institutional policies–why they’re re-segregating public schools & attacking affirmative action & why they’re whipping up panic about the border wall to keep out refugees & immigrants. Segregation is essential because racism has not proven as intransigent psychologically as it is institutionally. Familiarity fosters friendships. It’s the human way. It’s a political problem for the elite if we don’t hate black & brown people as inferior, criminal, rapists (as Trump does), because then we won’t approve of building those walls or fighting those wars or using dark-hued people as underpaid, super-exploited labor. Racism is part of the very structure of capitalism but it hasn’t worked its way into our DNA.

Just a personal anecdote, admittedly not scientific, but an illustration nevertheless: a beloved uncle of mine is close to half American Indian but not raised in that tradition, nor identified with it. He never badmouthed Black people but in the days of segregation he accepted the prevailing social hatred. His kids however grew up in the era of school desegregation & had friendships with Blacks & Latinos. (American Indians remain pervasively segregated even after they were allowed to leave reservations & move to cities.) He now has dozens of grandchildren, great grandchildren, in-laws who are Black. I asked my cousin who had the first Black baby in the family how long it took my uncle to overcome his antipathy. She answered: “The first time he held her.”

That’s all I have to say. For now.