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 🙂

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