Pax Christi Metro New York Human Rights Day/Holy Innocents Event
December 12, 2020
Cathleen Crayton and Tom Cordero, former members of Pax Christi USA’s National Council and Anti-racism Team, were PCMNY’s keynote speakers at our annual Human Rights Day/Holy Innocents event presented via Zoom. Their topic was Moving Beyond Victimization and Privilege: The Anti-Racism Challenge.
Alternating segments of their presentations, they began with a definition of racism: “racial prejudice plus sanctioned misuse of institutional systemic power.” Working from this, they explored both Internal Racist Oppression, whereby the target of oppression takes it into his or her psyche that he or she is in fact inferior, and Internal Racial Superiority, in which another presumes he or she is superior because of his or her (usually white) race. Both may be either recognized or unwitting, so ingrained that the person does not realize it exists. The two work together to reinforce the separation between people and within society.
One aspect of this “dance” seems to demand attention from activists, especially white people assuming that they can adequately express the way people of color see and experience their lives. We all need to be aware of where we actually exist within society, our “social location,” so that we do not assume our perspective and language are universally true or understood the same way. We need to acknowledge and understand how we are part of the situation, especially as we work against racism, so that our actions do not reinforce what we want to dismantle. This will involve not only understanding but also making changes in behaviors, both individual and societal.
The workshop was lively and well-presented, including not only talks but also small breakout groups and a Question and Answer session. Thanks to Cathleen and Tom and PCMNY for an interesting and important event.
M. Doretta Cornell, RDC