So many in the punditry will have us believe that we now live in a post-racial America, but this is, of course, bunk. Ask nearly anyone of color (if you can’t see it yourself). There’s still lots of racism in this country.
Of course, the more, um, ‘subtle’ forms of racism (not a very good descriptor, granted) are the ones that many whites refuse to recognize, like being followed in a store, being questioned or pulled over by the police, or simply being scorned in public settings (“how do you know that’s about your skin color?!” some will ask). I’ve heard from many white people things like “I don’t see color”, which is intended to prove that they are not racist, while actually demonstrating that, at the very least, they are not seeing the whole person, and more likely that they are demonstrating racism in one way or another whether they want to think so or not. The things that whites agree are racist are ascribed to the extreme few (like the KKK and the Skinheads) and are therefore dismissed as being minor experiences for the greater public.
We believe we are, personally anyway, not racist anymore. We live in a post-civil rights country now, right?
Even if whites don’t ask anyone of color what their experience is (and let’s not forget that the vast majority of the punditry who are exclaiming this post-racial world are white people trying to define the experiences of people of color), we now have actual research to show for it.
Last week’s issue of Science Magazine has a piece of research that shows that white people think they’ll be really upset at an overt act of racism, but, when actually presented with it, they’re just not that upset and may not do or say anything about it. As CNN notes, these are some of the people involved in Project Implicit, based at Harvard, which has lots of tests people can take to see what their underlying prejudices are. (A warning from them is that if you are not prepared for learning what your underlying prejudices are, be wary of taking any of their tests.)
The upshot of all this is that, duh, racism is still rife throughout our culture. But if we talk about it and think about what it looks like and how it can manifest, we will be better prepared for those situations when we do encounter them. A white person who hears a racial slur has the privilege of ignoring it and walking away, and so it is incumbent on us to prepare ourselves for how we will respond when that happens (because it will happen).
These are conversations we need to have in school, in class, in groups of young people, starting at very young ages. Considering how much race- and ethnicity-based bullying there is in schools, we must help give youth the tools to use in those situations. If we do not, we will simply raise yet another generation of white people who will look the other way. It is the responsibility of white people to work to end racism.
h/t to Macon D over at Stuff White People Do on the CNN article.