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America's Atonement

Racial Pain, Recovery Rhetoric, and the Pedagogy of Healing -- 2nd Edition


Aaron David Gresson III

The second edition of America’s Atonement: Racial Pain, Recovery Rhetoric, and the Pedagogy of Healing argues that racial pain is a driving force in contemporary race relations and is especially prevalent in social discourses on identity, fairness, and social justice. Despite its importance, racial pain is too often glossed over as mundane or disingenuous. For this reason, social justice activism and education are in danger of undermining the needs and opportunities to more effectively convey what has been called «difficult knowledge». This book highlights emergent examples of psychic and relational healing.
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Part Two: White Pain and the Dance of Agency


← 56 | 57 → Part Two


… It [social justice activism] has failed to soothe the resistant “racial pain” for whites, who feel stereotyped into a collective condition of unique, and perhaps ineradicable, guilt.

– John Hatch (2006b: 258)

Identity is a construct, a fiction, but it is a deeply embedded, remarkably persistent, and necessary fiction. Sometimes people prefer to die rather than to relinquish their identity. Race is another fiction, preserved in this country because the arbitrary division between white and black helps to maintain white privilege. The fictions of race intersect with the constructions of identity to create the sincere fictions of the white self. These sincere fictions, incorporated on the level of object relations and therefore largely unconscious, sustain a white ego ideal and preserve the notion of the black as the “other,” preventing us from recognizing the brutal reality of the racial oppression on which American society has always been based and from recognizing our own internalized racist notions. Until we confront the psychological underpinnings of racism and expose the sincere fictions of the white self, the only changes in American race relations will continue to be superficial.

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