On Racism: A Message To White People

I’ve been concerned with racism for over 23 years, when I gave birth to a mix-raced daughter. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’ve learned some things over the years and have tried to dismantle the oppression in my own thinking as well as in the various social systems.

This message is to the people who need it most: white people. It’s from another white person. After all, why should undoing racism be the burden of people of color?

Over the past week or so, I have followed the story of the white supremacist student at the University of North Florida, who threatened to defend his views with (possibly) a gun. I don’t know the entire details of the story, but I do know it caused significant uproar on my former campus.

That’s not the first time since Trump took office that blatant racism hit home, though. A few months ago, it was reported that the KKK was recruiting in a neighborhood near me.

Folks said, “Well, these people (white supremacists) are a minority.” And, “This doesn’t happen in nice neighborhoods like ours.”

No, they aren’t. And, yes, it does.

Racism is insidious. Because we are raised in a culture surrounded by it, for white people, it’s like a fish in water. One of our first steps is to acknowledge that people who are more blatant white supremacists are not so dissimilar than ourselves and that their ideas are not very different than the ones we have.

I studied, to the extent I could, various kinds of bias when I was in graduate school. So I know that if you are reading this, you probably have some kind of racial bias. And, hey, I do, too.

It’s time we come to terms with that.

How do you undo bias? Thankfully, researchers have studied this. One very good way to reduce bias is to surround yourself with people you are biased against. Take the Implict Associations Test on race to see whether you have biases. I won’t judge you if it turns out you have some sort of bias. But I expect you to do something about it. If it turns out you are a white person and have a racial bias against Black people, get some pictures of Black people and hang them on your wall. Read some books by Black authors. Surround yourself with the people you are biased against. It works. Plus, it will enrich your life.

Other suggestions for people on how to reduce explicit or implicit racism are welcome in comments.

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