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The parallels between understanding matters of race and taking an exam with a pass/fail grading curve are similiar. A bit extreme, but similar. It’s easy to say “you either get it or you don’t.” Granted there’s a whole lot more to it than that, but roll with me on that analogy.
Before we get to the answers, you have understand that given some people’s racial experiences, they’re response of “I’m tired of having to educate white people about my feelings …” is more than a little justified. It is a wholly valid response. I say that not to be dismissive, but we don’t ask a rape victim to recount the experience of having been raped or spell out the emotional horror that follows such an experience simply because we want to know. It’s just not done. Understand, I’m not throwing cold water on anyone’s desire to understand the experience of People of Color, but at its core the experience is human and more relatable then one might first imagine. I say that because, well … People of Color are human just as white people are human.
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The problem isn’t so much that some white people don’t understand “white privilege.” The problem is potentially two-fold. First, they may not understand it by that specific name. I’d never heard of the term “white privilege” until a few years ago; but growing up in the south, I knew it when I saw it exercised … even with my eyes closed. Everyone in these United States recognizes the concept of white privilege when they see it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this 1-minute video from educator, Jane Elliott.
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Here we are again. Another heaping of social injustice served up at the expense of another black life snuffed out with impunity. (Correction: expendable black life snuffed out with impunity.) That in the 21st century, groups of people find it acceptable and enable others to trample upon the humanity of others is a disgrace. These situations beg the question: why is it that some white people can easily grasp what Black Americans experience in the United States and others find it nearly impossible? The reason will not surprise you.
VIRIN: 204700-U-HCW15–843.jpg, defense.gov
For some, it’s hard to believe issues of race, discrimination, and privilege still need to be addressed in 2017. But all anyone need do is have an in-depth conversation with a Person of Color about their direct experience in these matters to realize that racism is alive and well. With today’s polarized political opinions and rising numbers of hate crimes, it’s more important than ever that these conversations
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Let’s say you arrive at your favorite restaurant for a meal as soon as the doors open. You speak with the seating hostess and ask how long is the wait? She tells you there’s no wait and asks how many in your party. You respond one. (Roll with me on this, I hate eating alone in a restaurant, too.) She tells you to have a seat, you’re next.
Image by Pete Souza, The White House
Last week, I watched Lester Holt interview the forty-fourth president of the United States, President Barack Obama. During the interview, the two men covered much of Mr. Obama’s two terms. Midway through the broadcast, it occurred to me that Mr. Obama’s presidency is the fulfillment of so much of