This is a reflection that I just had to do for one of my social work classes… May be interesting to some:
In response to this weeks reading, I will be reflecting on racism. More specifically, white people’s inability to recognize their unconscious, and conscious, actions that contribute to direct racism, myself included. For starters, being a white male in this argument, I’ve got all the fates against me. Peggy Mclntosh, described my position as an “unearned privilege”, meaning I didn’t have to work at obtaining the status of a white male, while reaping benefits of this classification, daily. The prevalence of racism, not the inability of addressing the issue, is what is most reviling to me. But how am I supposed to tackle my thoughts on racism in a single reflection paper, especially given my associated class?
With my obvious disadvantage and initial hesitation, I will simply try and take a stance, for myself, before beginning. So I think, “What does racism mean to me?” In a simplistic view of my upbringing, I was taught that racists are people who discriminate against certain groups, and I’m suppose love each person individually while excluding any factors that may be considered a minority; basically, I was taught to accept people and avoid racism. While I appreciate my parent’s attitude toward accepting everyone, I disagree with avoidance.
In Defining Racism, “Can We Talk?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, the occurrence of existing racism, comes into question, which she successfully demonstrates is deeply seeded in our country’s history and present day. I believe this same ideology of pondering if racism still exists, or if racism is ignored it will go away, is exactly what my parents struggled with, along with most people. Although, this idea is family specific, I believe it is a cultural norm for white citizens. To lay the foundation for my core belief on racism: I believe racism is a major issue that is not only continually ignored, but widely unnoticed.
As previously mentioned, the general acceptance and inability to recognize the occurrence of racism is what impacted me the most. Initially, I was disheartened by the readings and thought the authors were extremist, but I stand corrected. I agree with the ideology of, “color-blind racism”, described in the article, Color-Blind Racism by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. It doesn’t make sense that white people claim to be color-blind, while black citizens still face major inequalities, which leads me to my second belief: racism is a power struggle and continues to be perpetuated by people’s lack of addressing it.
With disproportionate distribution of assets among races, I started to think of what benefits I was receiving, without even knowing it. Peggy Mclntosh, describes the same feeling as, “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks”; meaning, that being white grants privileges, from renting in any neighborhood to checking out at the grocery store. This realization was good for me to experience, because I never fully comprehended the extent of my “unearned privilege”.
Of course, my self-discoveries aren’t new to someone who deals with discrimination and prejudice, but they have widened my understanding on the topic, which can lead to other important self-discoveries about racism. I consider myself a well-educated, non-racist person, and yet I couldn’t even recognize simple privileges I received by being a white male, and by no means did I intend on participating in racism, merely by my lack of self-discovery. I do, however, strongly believe it is important for white people to be self-aware of the disparities among races and possible unconscious racism. Racism is not an easy topic to discuss, but with the proper knowledge and patience, more people can understand that their words and actions may be harmful, and the importance of correcting the racism within ourselves.