Clueless White Woman

June 16, 2008

No racism anymore?

I found There’s no racism anymore, by Tami Winfrey Harris, extremely interesting. (Not only because I always find Tami’s writing interesting!)

…that’s what my stepson said to me last week when I told him about my new gig at Anti-Racist Parent: “There’s no racism anymore.” I was dumbfounded. Has he not heard his dad and I discussing the race bias in the 2008 presidential race? Did he not spend most of his life in Chicago (one of the most segregated cities I have ever seen) where young black men face profiling by citizens, shopkeepers and police officers? Is he not one of just a few children of color in his school… nuff said?

I offered my son a few examples of ways that racism most definitely does exist, including the fact that one of his teachers, though she grades him fairly, seems to treat him differently due to race. “Well, yeah, there’s that stuff,” he retorted. “But not real racism.”

I get where Tami’s stepson is coming from. In many ways we are a much more equal society than we were forty years ago, probably even twenty years ago. It’s very hard to find segregation or blatant racism, and that’s a good thing. But little things, subtle things, are still everywhere. The lack of “obvious” bigotry means that minor bias or prejudice is dismissed.

It’s hard to speak up about those “little things” — what average person wants to be called a racist? What average person wants to point a finger and call another average person that? It has become a charged word, and causes a defensive, even angry response in the accused. Nobody wants to be THAT GUY. However, the endemic nature of biases and prejudices still need to be examined and addressed somehow. If we don’t, then we’re all clueless.

It is interesting that this isn’t just a “white” thing, though. Partly because I get to feel a little guilty relief — I’m not clueless because I’m white, I’m clueless because I’m not observant or looking with a sufficiently critical eye. But also, I am quietly optimistic that maybe the younger generation will continue eradicating biases and prejudices until we really do have an equitable society. I’m going to continue reading Anti-Racist Parent in the hopes of finding strategies to raise my own (white) children to be anti-racist, the same as I will now strive to be 🙂



  1. I just randomly ran across your blog and found myself scanning through it for a while. I’m now almost late for work but I wanted to invite you to comment on my blog. I’ll do the same with yours later. I’m really glad someone else is thinking through and talking about all this stuff. We all really need it!!!

    Comment by matthewross35 — June 26, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  2. You mentioned: It is interesting that this isn’t just a “white” thing

    and this is so true. I think it’s more about ones experience and ones ability to articulate the intricacies of something so complex. I teach middle to high school students. I also live in Portland, Oregon (land of the well-intentioned liberal). I love Portland, don’t get me wrong, but many people here often can’t that which is going on right in their face–even if it is happening to them. A talk to Black students all the time about whether racism exists and if they experience it. Most times, high schoolers on down are only able to recognize overt acts of racism. They haven’t had the exposure to understanding the complexities of structural and institutional racism which is much more prevalent today than the overt stuff.

    One of the dangers of people seeing or not seeing in this case, is that when they have to work harder than someone that’s privileged to get the same result or even worse if they fail, they often look inward and blame themselves. They then see their failure as a lack of ability and adequacy. They buy into the media and politically driven romanticized dream of meritocracy–your ability to succeed in this life is solely based on your determination and how hard you work. Being determined and working hard are excellent traits, but this view totally discounts circumstances. So if you were born into a family where your parents barely, if at all, graduated from high school, they couldn’t help you with your homework past the 7th grade, they didn’t have the social and cultural skills that this money driven society rewards to pass on to you, so what! You ended up working a menial job, not because of circumstances, but because you weren’t determined enough and didn’t work hard enough. You see how insidious this can be? It makes me sad when I hear young people from any people group say that racism, classism, sexism, etc…are gone. At least for the students of color and poor students, I know that internalized oppression waits around the corner.

    Comment by matthewross35 — June 27, 2008 @ 5:47 am

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