Q: In discussions on race & current events like Charleston, I keep seeing conservatives accuse the media and people of color of race-baiting. I know that is not what the term originally meant, and that it’s used in this context to shut down discussion and silence talk about racism that doesn’t benefit the racist power structure, but how do I explain that to the average white conservative?
Is there any way to get it through to these people that not talking about race can make racism worse and that treating everything as colorblind can help perpetuate racism?
A: White people insist that there’s no reason to talk about race anymore because we like to believe that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement. In the minds of many whites (and frankly, this is how our schools teach these issues), America’s race problem concluded with the Civil Rights Movement (integration and voting rights, really). So, when the topic comes up, you get accusations of “race baiting” or making “everything about race” or “playing the race card”.
Of course, this is a terrifically convenient way for white people to let ourselves off the hook (Hey, my dad handled the race problem back in the ‘60s!). It also lets us feel superior, because when we see entrenched issues like poverty and income disparity, modern “ghettos” and mass incarceration, we get to yell “Bootstraps!” and not ask the hard questions about why these issues persist.
Q: As a leader of an organization with a mission to serve and represent a community of color, how do I help white members of the group feel valued, yet also address their unease with their limitations of advancement and defensiveness anytime “white” is spoken in a negative context?
A: This question needs a book, not just a post! LOL
A few thoughts. Continue reading
Q: Can you explain a little bit more about the issue of representation in media? I’ve been trying to explain to white friends why a population that is a minority shouldn’t be represented in such a small way, but am having a hard time explaining when pushed. In other words, the question I get is: Doesn’t it make sense that movies would reflect the reality of having a majority white population? Feels very “oy” but I can’t think of a good response.
A: So, I’m not sure I completely understand the question but here are some thoughts.
Yes, movies reflect a white population. The thing is the percentage of non-Hispanic white people in the U.S. population has reached an all-time low: 63%. The NY Daily News reported in 2013 that “Nearly half of American children younger than 5 are minorities, and the number of minorities under 18 is expected to surpass the number of white children by 2019. The total minority population has grown 21 times faster than the white population.” Continue reading
There are many great resources out there for white people to learn about history. Especially for those of us who grew up in predominantly white communities in the US, we were often not taught the truth about our country, about racism, or let’s face it… we were not taught about anyone except the white colonialists, and maybe MLK.
It is our responsibility to learn. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Below are a few resources pulled together, specifically regarding Charleston, SC. Please add more in the comments area.
Q: I’ve been invited to serve on a board for an organization focused on POC. How can I best be helpful on the board without feeling like the white person trying to have greater influence or voice in an initiative that is not about me?
A: That is great that you are doing the work and have been invited to be in a position of leadership. As white people serving in organizations focused on work with and by people of color we need to really take care, especially if you are the only white person in the room, and even more if you benefit from multiple positions of privilege. Obviously, as people who benefit from white supremacy we always need to take care; but, if you are a cis, straight, white, upper-middle class, male for example, you will need to really examine the work you do. This is not to say that you shouldn’t speak up or participate, or challenge people or the organization, just that you will need to examine your motives, and how much your voice is being valued/heard.
Q: Why is it that blacks can use the “n” word all they want but when a white person uses it all hell breaks loose?
A: Simply put…White supremacy.
Q: A POC friend posted about a scumbag murdering 9 people, police knowing he murdered 9 people, police apprehend scumbag, and do not feel their lives were threatened so scumbag lives because the scumbag had “the complexion for the protection.” I know police brutality is racially biased, but its too much across the board and in this particular case the police did it right and my POC friend was coming across as resentful that this white man didn’t end up dead like he would have been much more likely to have if he had been white. So I called my POC friend out, saying I don’t see how they would have been satisfied unless this white scumbag had been hurt or killed. My POC friend called my comments foolish and then referred me to this website. What did I do wrong?
A: Seeing another incident where a white person was treated drastically different than a person of color is very painful to watch. Not only did the terrorist live,
but he was not handcuffed on his way to the police car, given a bulletproof vest and come to find out later, taken to Burger King for some food. This is just another incident of white supremacy. White supremacy is a system that privileges whiteness over darker skin. Elizabeth Martínez defines it as, “White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.” The prison industrial complex, including the police, is a system based on white supremacy. Continue reading