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Choose 2 main points from Beyond Racial Gridlock and discuss

Choose 2 main points from Beyond Racial Gridlock and discuss

Read Beyond Racial Gridlock Chapter 5 (ATTACHED)
Part One: Your Reactions (Length should be approximately 250 words total)
Choose 2 main points from Beyond Racial Gridlock and discuss your reactions, agreements and/or disagreements to what the author has written. What are the important themes, points, strengths, weaknesses, and/or impressions. Provide details about what interests you.
Do not just summarize the book’s content and then say something like “I really liked/disliked this point.” Your reactions should be supported by reasoning, argumentation, and evidence.
Part Two: Current Event (Length should be approximately 250 words total). 
Select a current event that reflects a point you or the author has made above.
1) a brief statement summarizing the point and
2) a link or detailed description of the event.
Length should be approximately 250 words total. 

White Responsibility
Perhaps the most controversial model for solving racial issues is what
I will term white responsibility. This model receives support from both
majority and minority group members who are highly critical of the so-
cial systems of the United States. Racial minorities, however, are more
likely to support this model.
The core of the white responsibility model is that the dominant group
creates problems of race and ethnicity. We might argue that the disap-
pearance of overt racism is evidence that majority group members no
longer have disproportionate racial power. But advocates of the white re-
sponsibility approach argue that majority social structures continue to
victimize people of color. Like historic overt racism, subtle contempo-
rary racism works to the benefit of the majority group. Therefore mem-
bers of the majority have a social interest in maintaining the status quo.1
Advocates of the white responsibility model contend that unless major-
ity group members are willing to deal with the racism they create, the
problem will not go away.
It is only fair to ask whether people of color have any responsibility
to help Americans solve racial conflict. Advocates of white responsibility
respond that people of color have limited, if any, responsibility for racial
problems. In fact some assert that African Americans, and by extension
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W h i t e R e s p o n s i b i l i t y 65
other people of color, are unable to be racists.2 From their viewpoint, ra-
cial minorities can have prejudice, but they cannot be racist because rac-
ism requires structural power. Since only dominant group members
have structural power in our society, only dominant group members can
practice racism.3 European Americans are the ones who set up the social
structures that perpetuate racism, so European Americans have the re-
sponsibility to remove these social structures. The only responsibility of
racial minorities is to inform the majority group of the problems that
their social structures create and to demand their destruction.
The white responsibility model has important intellectual origins. It
emerged from ethnic studies programs that were an outgrowth of the
civil rights movement.4 As African, Latino, Asian and Native American
students found a hostile environment in academia, they fought for their
own separate spaces on college campuses. There, students and scholars
from marginalized communities could assemble and articulate their
goals for achieving cultural and political autonomy. As a result, 103
black studies programs and 100 Chicano studies programs were estab-
lished by 1980. People of color began to shape an academic agenda that
focused on the advancement of their concerns, safe from potential con-
tamination by majority group influence.
Ethnic studies promoted the intellectual atmosphere that led to the
creation of critical race theory, which holds that racism is an inherent part
of American society.5 Critical race theory argues that although the overt
racism of white supremacy has receded, more insidious forms of institu-
tional racism remain. Measures that appear to try to eradicate racism ac-
tually serve to perpetuate it because they deny that racism still has
power. For example, recent court cases used the colorblindness model
to strike down legal provisions such as affirmative action, which were
created to help people of color overcome the effects of racism. The courts
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66 B E Y O N D R A C I A L G R I D L O C K
perpetuated the racial status quo, maintaining elite white advantage over
racial minorities.
While a racist society lets elite whites keep their material dominance,
it also shores up the self-esteem of lower-class and lower-middle-class
whites. They may not reach the material level of the wealthier members
of the majority, but they gain a psychological lift from belonging to the
dominant racial group. Since the majority has so much to gain from rac-
ism, they will not willingly give up their power.
Proponents of white responsibility believe that our society must de-
velop new arrangements for sharing power. Because racism is so perva-
sive, the new measures must take race into account. Majority group
members would have to surrender excessive social power. There are var-
ious ideas of how the majority would transfer their power to the minor-
ity, but a commonly proposed method is through reparations.6
The argument for reparations is based on the assertion that the historic
abuse suffered by racial minorities has impaired their ability to fairly com-
pete in society. Because of this inequity, and because of broken promises
given to certain minority groups,7 proponents of reparations argue that
racial minorities should receive some form of compensation from the ma-
jority. Reparations are a way for the majority to begin to correct the effects
of the historic oppression of racism. In chapter eight I will look more
closely at the argument for reparations and assess its value.
The white responsibility model lays the blame for racism squarely on
European Americans and European American society. No one claims
that all whites hate people of color. But regardless of whether a majority
group member has personal racism, our social system works to the ad-
vantage of whites and to the disadvantage of people of color. For exam-
ple, in a previous book I demonstrated how historic segregation contin-
ues to rob African Americans of their ability to receive the same quality
of education as European Americans.8 Because students attend schools
mostly with people of their own race, more economic and social re-
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W h i t e R e s p o n s i b i l i t y 67
sources go to schools with majority group students. White responsibility
adherents use such situations to point out that the problem is not per-
sonal racism but the more subtle racism of institutions.
The emphasis on institutional racism has led to the controversial
claim that blacks and other racial minorities cannot be called racist. That
is logical if racism means the effort by the majority to maintain economic
and emotional advantages over the minority. Solutions offered by propo-
nents of white responsibility aim to destroy institutions that exploit ra-
cial minorities for the benefit of the majority. Racial minorities have little
role in solving the problem except to bring racial issues to the attention
of whites who are willing to partner with them in the destruction of rac-
ist social structures.
The greatest strength of the white responsibility model is its ability to
point out subtle ways in which the majority dominates society and per-
petuates racism. While some people dismiss claims that racism still ex-
ists, advocates of white responsibility continue to offer evidence of ma-
jority advantage and proof that the minority still suffers from racism. An
excellent example of such evidence is the concept of white privilege, first
articulated by Peggy McIntosh.9 Advocates of white responsibility use
the concept of white privilege to show the subtle, and sometimes not so
subtle, ways in which majority group members still benefit from their ra-
cial status.10 McIntosh claims that she benefits from her racial status in
many ways, such as being able to shop alone without being harassed, not
being singled out by police or the IRS and not being expected to speak
for all people of her race. White responsibility advocates point out that
as long as majority group members continue to enjoy advantages, they
will protect the racial status quo. Because few Americans want to openly
participate in a racist social system,11 contemporary racism is practiced
in a manner which obscures its effects on the opportunities and free-
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68 B E Y O N D R A C I A L G R I D L O C K
doms of people of color. No reforms will be forthcoming if the majority
does not perceive that there is a problem.
A second strength of the white responsibility model is that its propo-
nents refuse to allow us to ignore our racial problems. We may not want
to confront the ugliness of racism, but white responsibility activists con-
stantly remind us that the issue is there. They will not let us be compla-
cent about confronting individual, institutional and historic racism.
Advocates of the first two models, colorblindness and Anglo-
conformity, tend to downplay the importance of racial problems. Even
some who promote the multiculturalist model may hesitate to name
the evil within European American culture, since multiculturalism
takes a relativistic approach to cultural norms. However, as long as
there are advocates of the white responsibility model, someone will al-
ways be calling racism to our attention. This is important because un-
less we acknowledge that racism still exists, we will not be able to re-
move its oppressive influences.
A final strength of the white responsibility model is that it helps re-
move some of the social stigma of belonging to a minority group. Some
argue that people of color do not succeed economically and education-
ally because the surrounding society constantly tells them they are fail-
ures.12 The perception of failure is reinforced by individualism, which
holds that a person’s success or failure is determined by the person’s
own effort.13 It is not accurate to tie a person’s success solely to his or
her individual effort. Powerful institutional forces can aid or inhibit
success, especially in a society as racialized as the United States.14
White responsibility advocates remind people of color that talent and
work alone do not determine success or failure. Prospects for success
are affected by racialized social structures.15 We can argue that until
people of color realize how much the deck is stacked against them,
they will not acknowledge how much they must overcome, and they
may give up too easily.
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W h i t e R e s p o n s i b i l i t y 69
Despite its strengths, the white responsibility model has serious short-
comings. First, it completely discounts the responsibility of racial minor-
ities because it lays all the blame for our society’s race problems on ma-
jority racism. Minority group members may at first find such a stance
tempting. Being absolved of any responsibility, they can make demands
on their white brothers and sisters while not having to worry about their
own actions. On deeper reflection we see that such a position is actually
disempowering for people of color. If they have no responsibility for our
racial problems, then they are unable to play a significant role in reform-
ing society. Racial minorities are forced to sit on the sidelines and wait
for whites to put the proper reforms in place.
For example, some advocates of the white responsibility model claim that
only whites can be racist. So while people of color can have prejudice, the
responsibility of erasing racism lies with dominant group members. If Chris-
tians of color cannot be racist, then we can only try to help our white broth-
ers and sisters overcome their own racism. If they accept our help, that is
great. If they are not willing to accept our help, then we are helpless. By re-
moving the responsibilities of people of color, the white responsibility model
sets them up for increased frustration. No wonder there are so many angry
minorities who advocate the white responsibility model. It is a philosophy
that feeds the frustration deep within the soul of a person of color.
The second shortcoming of the white responsibility model is that it
alienates whites who do not already feel a significant level of racial guilt.
Because whites feel unfairly accused, they develop more distance from
racial minorities. The white responsibility model does not help create
harmony between whites and racial minorities. In my experience, whites
rebel against the ideas of this model because they believe it is unfair to
blame only majority group members. Defensiveness and anger do not
make European Americans open to the possibility of racial dialogue and
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70 B E Y O N D R A C I A L G R I D L O C K
White adherents of the white responsibility model do exist, both
Christian and secular.16 In my experience it is an all or nothing proposi-
tion for majority group members. Either whites totally accept the white
responsibility model or they totally reject it as unfair. The vast majority
of whites perceive it as unfair and reject it. It is unlikely that such a
model will attract enough European American believers to build a strong
multiracial consensus within the Christian community.
Finally, the white responsibility model is problematic because it ig-
nores the fact that all people, including racial minorities, are sinners. The
premise of the model is that only the sins of European Americans have
contributed to racism. Whites can justifiably feel that they are being
picked on unfairly. People of all races can and do engage in sin, even the
sin of racism. All major racial groups have exploited other groups when
they had power. An honest reading of history shows us that black Afri-
cans practiced slavery, that Native Americans brutally massacred each
other before Europeans came to the New World and that some Asians
oppressed other Asians based on ideas of ethnic superiority.
Supporters of the white responsibility model can respond that while
all racial groups have the potential to engage in racism, in the United
States it is the European Americans who have the power to consistently
do so; therefore to delve into the faults of other racial groups will do little
to help us overcome racial problems. I disagree with this argument. If we
forget that people of color are also capable of selfishness and greed, then
we fashion solutions which rely on people of color to exhibit extra-
ordinary self-restraint. Even more than the multiculturalist model, ad-
herents of white responsibility assume that racial minorities will not play
the race card.17 But because of the sin nature in all people, including
people of color, it is likely that racial minorities will abuse the noble sta-
tus given to them by adherents of this model. Racial minorities will seek
advantages over whites whether those advantages are legitimate or not.
The white responsibility model does not provide any way to restrain
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W h i t e R e s p o n s i b i l i t y 71
racial minorities from abusing their newly elevated position. A solution
that leads to racial reconciliation must include ways to restrain both the
minorities and the majority from promoting racial evil.
The Christian religion takes sin very seriously. How to deal with the
consequences of sin is at the heart of how many of us understand our
faith.18 Our Christianity not only convicts us of sin but offers a solution
by repentance and acceptance of the blood of Christ. The reason why
many people refuse this free gift is that they fail to acknowledge sin’s
power to ruin us. To the degree that the white responsibility model is
able to point out the sin of racism, it is compatible with a prophetic
Christian call. Many conservative Christians limit themselves to an in-
dividualistic concept of sin. As I pointed out in chapter two, racism can
manifest itself as structural as well as individualistic sin.19 Because rac-
ism is almost universally recognized as sin, Christians who are sensitive
to structural sin are likely to find some agreement with the white re-
sponsibility model. Once we go outside politically conservative Chris-
tian circles, we find a greater number of Christians who accept the
white responsibility model.
Adherence to the white responsibility model does not require one to
belong to a racial minority. One of the best-known Christian advocates
of this model is a white man named Joseph Brandt. Brandt’s book Dis-
mantling Racism has become a key in his Crossroads ministry, which pre-
sents diversity seminars for Christian groups. Brandt begins with the ba-
sis that racism is a white problem because racism is not limited to
prejudice by individuals; it is created by prejudice plus power. Brandt ar-
gues that because racial minorities lack power in our society, they do not
have the ability to be racist. From Brandt’s perspective, every white per-
son is part of the problem because of his or her dominant group status.
The gospel is needed to free whites from the prison of racism so they can
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72 B E Y O N D R A C I A L G R I D L O C K
participate in corporate action to tear down racism. Here we see two key
elements of the white responsibility model: focus on the structural prob-
lems created by the dominant culture and the denial of minority group
Of course whites such as Brandt are not the only Christian advocates
of white responsibility. One of the earliest calls for reparations occurred
in a Christian setting when James Foreman announced at Riverside
Church in New York that the churches and synagogues in the United
States should pay African Americans $500 million as a beginning of the
reparations due them. Since then, Christian groups have discussed
whether and how reparations can be justified.20
Another avenue of Christian support for the white responsibility
model is through what is called black theology.21 Black theology is a
Christian manifestation of a radical form of Afrocentrism. Black theology
conceptualizes Jesus as black because Jesus represents the oppressed in
society. Such an ideology allows blacks the leeway to do whatever is nec-
essary to protest racism. Almost anything blacks do in the nature of pro-
test is seen as furthering the work of Christ, because they are setting the
oppressed free.
Another Christian manifestation of white responsibility is what is
called liberation theology, which rose from Latin American Catholi-
cism.22 Liberation theology developed in response to the poverty of
Latin American countries. It attempts to be a prophetic voice for the
poor. Advocates of liberation theology contend that we find Christ in the
struggles of the impoverished. Since liberation theology originated
among Hispanic theologians and activists, racism is an important issue.
Liberation theology is very critical of the capitalist system, and it pre-
sents socialism as the solution to the problems of race and poverty. Lib-
eration theology can be seen as a Marxist Christian version of white re-
sponsibility. Although its roots are in Latin America, liberation theology
addresses issues of global poverty in non-Hispanic nations as well. Both
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W h i t e R e s p o n s i b i l i t y 73
black theology and liberation theology have been criticized for not being
scripturally based and for being generated purely out of cultures of color.
The first criticism may have merit, but the argument of bias is flawed be-
cause it is doubtful that any racial solutions developed by human beings
can be free from cultural bias.
More and more mainline churches are adopting a white responsibility
approach to racism. It is not difficult to understand why this is happen-
ing, since elements of Christianity clearly support this model. Once the
blame for racism is placed on European American culture, then a Chris-
tian concept of sin can be used to challenge that culture.
The Christian adaptation of the white responsibility model correctly
identifies the power of sin to create racial conflict. It is the nature of sin
that we want to hide its effects. Christian advocates of white responsibil-
ity do not allow us to forget the awful effects of sin. They remind us that
our society marginalizes people of color because of the personal and so-
cial sins of the majority. We can hope Christian white responsibility ad-
vocates can draw attention to these problems, which will help the
church take racism seriously.
But the Christian adaptation of this model does not display any sub-
stantial difference from the secular version. The way Christian advocates
of white responsibility apply their ideas about sin does not differ much
from the methods of the model’s secular proponents. Both aim to elimi-
nate majority group advantage. Christian advocates of white responsibil-
ity are vulnerable to the same critiques as its secular adherents. For ex-
ample, because Christian supporters of white responsibility focus on
only the sins of the majority, they do not acknowledge how the sins of
people of color contribute to racial conflict. White responsibility offers
at best an incomplete blueprint for us to construct a satisfying solution
for th
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