Thursday, November 15, 2007

Perpetuating Racism

Recently I heard about a college class that was asked the following question:

How do you reinforce racism either through the things you do or do not do?

Everyone was told to write down their responses and then the papers were passed to different people in the class and read aloud.

Most of the responses were things like:

I get nervous when I walk by a person of color on the street

I don’t stop my friends or family from saying racist jokes or using words like “ghetto”

When I see students of color on campus I think they got here through affirmative action*

It is a beginning level course with mostly white students so I didn’t expect to hear much else, but I really want to.

I want to see the discussion of perpetuating racism deepen. I want it to be more than admitting you get nervous around men of color. I want it to be true confessions of outwardly things that people do.

But if you ask a white person what they do to reinforce racism and they think that they are not racist then they probably do not realize what it is they are doing. And if they are a student in college that is trying to be really pc, then they might admit something deep if they have had extensive classes but most likely they won’t because they don’t want to admit to themselves or others that their over use of pc terms is because of their deep seeded racist thoughts.

Ok, I’m generalizing, but this is what I have heard throughout my years in academia.

People in college are going to be the ones that take over big companies and have positions of power in the future. They will be in positions that can allow them to work from the inside out. I want them to acknowledge what they do so they can work to over come it.

I want to hear a college student say:

I work in a department store and I often follow people of color as they shop

I think people of color exaggerate when they talk about racist things that have happened to them

It’s an interesting conversation to have. It’s one that more college courses should have and professors should push students to go deeper. What would you say in response to that question?

*This one is an exception. It's on the deeper side for sure. Not something most college students are likely to admit.

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