Dr. Amer F. Ahmed joins Francesca to discuss the roots of institutionalized racism under capitalism, and how individualization leads to forced assimilation to white culture.
Dr. Amer Ahmed joins Francesca to share his deep wisdom and rich experience working hands-on with the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Their conversation ranges from the very essential topic of institutionalized and anti-Black racism, to the implicit biases we may carry, and all the ways which that may play out structurally within our society, institutions, and families. Francesca and Dr. Ahmed peer into the nuanced layers and intersections surrounding these topics and the effects that they have on different ethnic, identity, and racial groups. Pertaining to these issues, through this conversation we learn how to have necessary conversations from the inside out, while also being able to hold vantage from the outside in.
Dr. Amer Ahmed is an organizational strategist who helps institutions and leaders address diversity and inclusion, equity, and intercultural development through consulting, coaching, group facilitation, and keynote speeches. A frequently requested speaker nationwide, Dr. Amer Ahmed’s approach is grounded in a commitment to Inclusive Excellence in organizations and communities. He brings his identity as the son of Indian Muslim immigrants and extensive years as an intercultural and diversity consultant as the sources of a pivotal understanding of the depth of diversity and inclusion work. Throughout his career, Dr. Amer Ahmed has worked with large organizations, higher education institutions, non-profit agencies, schools and community groups to create understanding and change among key constituents and institutional leaders.
Dr. Amer Ahmed’s new show, The Eclectic Inclusion Podcast will be launching on July 6th. You can find more information about his events and ongoing projects at amerfahmed.com
Capitalism, Forced Assimilation, & the Void of Whiteness
Why does cultural appropriation run so rampant amongst white society? Dr. Amer Ahmed shares that this is due to white people feeling emptiness within their cultural heritage. He brings up the history of the creation of the concept of race, with “whiteness” being an artificial construct made up in recent history to create an economic and social hierarchal structure within the system of capitalism when immigrants began settling in United States. At first groups like Italians and the Irish weren’t considered white, and suffered racism due to that, so they were left with the choice of either dropping their heritage and ‘becoming white,’ or continuing to suffer because of it. Due to this many white people are left in this void, reaching and searching for heritage and meaning. Since their culture was traded for capitalism, to fill that emptiness white people have grabbed onto cultural appropriation, sticking a price tag on a Buddha statue or peddling yoga in attempt to fill that cultural void, which, in turn, creates a loss of meaning, and ends up devaluing that which is commodified, so that void is never filled. That is why our cultural is stuck in the repetitive and destructive cycle of, “More, more more.”
“A lot of it is about capitalism. A lot of it is the replacement of identity…There was a choice especially for the marginalized ethnic Europeans of, ‘You either hold on to what you came from and suffer for that…or you assimilate.’ You give up the thing that is sacred to you, which is true for any human being; the values, the things you come from passed down generation after generation; you give that up for economic opportunity and access. Literally to become a manager in the industrialized United States, you needed to assimilate into this version of ‘white’ and you had to live in certain neighborhoods that were deemed white neighborhoods.” – Dr. Amer F. Ahmed
For illuminating information on the connected roots of capitalism and racism, tune into Ep. 14 of the ReRooted
Racial Bias: Collectivizing vs Individualizing (27:27)
Francesca and Dr. Ahmed bring up atrocities, killings, and mass shootings which involved people of color, and how those are viewed and treated by society compared to the same atrocities and mass killings when committed by white people. Historically, in the news, when a person of color commits a crime of this sort, their entire race is lumped together as a bad collective, but when a white person commits the same crime, they are simply deemed ‘one crazy individual.’
“It’s the collectivizing of black and brown people, but the individualizing of white people. That’s a very clear characteristic of whiteness, that [white people] are not part of some collective dynamic, that it’s just ‘coincidence’ that they just happen to do lots of things and interpret lots of things in similar ways…There’s a way in which white supremacy functions and operates in which they collectivize everybody else; therefore if one person does something, that justifies and rationalizes their treatment.” – Dr. Amer F. Ahmed
For a deep dive into identity, oppression, and liberation psychology, open yourself to Ep. 28 of ReRooted
Capitalist Individualization: Shame or Attack? (32:56)
When we learn these heavy truths, how do we hold all of this? When we can’t hold the truth of racial imbalances which are inherent within capitalist society, we can either go into shame mode or attack mode. Shame makes us feel bad, but attack makes us feel powerful and better, so through that many individuals continuing the process of ‘othering’ and of domination in order to be a part of the dominant system so they do not have to give up anything, and can continue this greedy, individualized way of being. This is sometimes a conscious process, but much of this is going on implicitly, beneath the surface.
“When you individuate and you collect capital, there isn’t this sense of collective responsibility…We then dehumanize, and we don’t think that’s what we’re doing, but we dissociate in a way…I do think that there’s this intuitive knowing in a land of genocide, a land of enslavement, a land of ongoing systemic oppression of Black People, that somehow what we’ve gotten in relationship to this is tenuous, and there’s an energy to that, and there’s a fear of the consequences of that, and then there’s a lack of desire for any conscious reminder of that.” – Dr. Amer F. Ahmed