Monday, January 16, 2017

I am a racist--if you're white, chances are you are, too

If you're white and celebrating Dr. King's life today, may be a good time for a self-examination.

I come from an unusual school in an unusual school district. We are not a mostly white or a black or a Latino school. We are Muslim and Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Sikh. We hear Bengali, Spanish, Greek, English, Patois, and maybe another couple dozen languages and dialects in our hallways.

Crispus Attucks, first death in American Revolution
via Crispus Attucks Museum website
I'm not going to ruin all this by claiming a Kumbaya moment, but what makes this building work maybe better than most others is the constant infusion of immigrants into our town, an infusion of confusion, that keeps us all wondering who we are.

I've heard several times a different version of that discussion, as a small group of kids will discuss just which banner they fall under.

And that's a good place to start.

The other race conversation is the one acknowledging the price of color in this fine land of ours. The problem is not starting "the conversation" about race. Most kind, nice folks I know are eager, too eager, to start the conversation.

The problem is getting past the niceties, the politeness, the veneer of civility that subtly reflects our standing with each other.

The problem with the hard conversation is that most white folks I know truly believe two things:
  • They're not racist.
  • If they're not racist, then this does not involve them.
This skirts the whole issue of privilege, neatly tidied up in a universal statement of our humanity, and who could possibly argue with the idea that an unbiased, nice person who just wants everybody to get along had nothing to do with, well, John Crawford? 

Here's a place to start. You're not going to get off the bottle until you acknowledge you're a racist. Not a John Birch Society heavy drinking racist, just the social two-glasses-of-chardonnay kind. The kind who sits on the sidelines tsk tsking away a world that does not concern you.

But it should.
Make the declaration, then let's try having the talk. 

And if it does not, you are in deeper than you think.
This was originally posted a tear or so ago--seemed like a good day to post it again.


Mary Ann Reilly said...

yes. And i am the mom to a child a color. become aware.

doyle said...

Powerful comment.