By Mike Jensen : In 1984, I lived in North Philadelphia. At that time (I have not been back for several years, so I can’t speak of the area’s current status), the area was almost entirely populated by black and Hispanic residents. I’m white, by the way, and there were literally weeks that went by when I didn’t see another white person in my neighborhood.
I grew up in a small town in Idaho. I had a few Hispanic, Native American, and black friends growing up, although I didn’t think of them that way. Mario Hernandez was simply my friend, just like Johnny Hansen and Rusty Green were my friends. This in my view is a good thing, but it’s not a good thing for those who want to perpetuate racial strife in this country. More on this in a bit.
However, I will freely admit that most of the people I knew growing up were white. That being the case, when I moved to Philadelphia, into a largely black and Hispanic neighborhood, it was my first time being the minority race in the neighborhood.
My first week in North Philly, I was walking down the sidewalk when a black man across the street shouted, “Go home, white boy!”
This took me by surprise. To begin with, I WAS home, for heaven’s sake, or at least a couple blocks from it. But what really shocked me was that here was a guy who didn’t know anything about me, and he had strong negative feelings against me simply because I was white.
Over the next couple of years that I lived in the area, I had a few similar occurrences. Sometimes I was called names by black neighbors, sometimes by Hispanic neighbors. However, these occurrences were far outnumbered by the acts of kindness of love I received from the numerous friends I made among my non-white neighbors.
Racism is not the sole domain of any one race
And on more than one occasion, when one black or Hispanic person shouted racially motivated comments at me, another of the same race told the first, in so many words, to shut up and go away.
What I learned from this experience is that, contrary to what The Most Unreverend Al Sharpton would have you believe, racism is not the sole domain of any one race. Anybody of any race can hold negative views of others because of their race. It’s pretty universal.
But what I also learned is that racism is a minority belief system. Yes, there are those of all races who are racist, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who are not.
I have learned since those days as a “white boy” in Philadelphia that racism is largely a result of fear and lack of knowledge. People fear what they are unfamiliar with. They see something new and different, and they have an irrational, negative reaction to it. (Actually, we could argue that from an evolutionary standpoint, this is not irrational at all, but that’s a debate for another day.)
The good news is (at least for those of us who do not have a vested interest in keeping racism alive), as our modern, “information society” expands, so does our familiarity with things that would have remained unfamiliar to those in generations past.
Especially for “millennials” (those reaching young adulthood around the year 2000), there is very little in the world that they have not seen on TV or the Internet.
It’s no surprise, then, that 91 percent of millennials believe in equality, and a majority says that their generation is “post-racial.” In fact, in a recent study, 67 percent stated that race is not a barrier to accomplishment. Most millennials aspire to “color blindness,” where society no longer even looks at a person in terms of race but instead sees all people as equals.
This is great news, right? The upcoming generation believes in equality and color blindness! Finally, a generation worth putting our faith in! Fifty years from now, racism will be gone completely! For anybody who cares about race and racism, this should be music to his or her ears.
ONLY IT’S NOT. In fact, this attitude really, really frustrates some in society. And this, to me, is simply mind blowing.
For example, Blue Boat of Youth and Young Adult Ministries quotes Jamelle Bouie ofSlate Magazine, noting that the millennials’ desire for color blindness causes them to, “fail to see that of the majority of Americans living in poverty, the majority of people in prison, the majority of people targeted by restrictions on voting rights and the majority of people receiving a substandard public school education… are African-American.”
At the online magazine, Latin Post, Nicole Akoukou argues that “millennials are committed to a standard of colorblindness that’s so precarious that it leaves them uncomfortable with race, unable to take measures to reduce racial inequality, and can even leave them confused about what racism is.”
At HelloBeautiful.com, Shamika Sanders notes that the results of the above mentioned survey made her feel, “embarrassed by my millennial existence.” She goes on to say, “Clearly MTV’s study pool has to be suburban kids who have no clue about the real world.”
So Akoukou and Sanders agree that the millennials belief in equal treatment and color blindness is due to the fact that they are either confused about racism or have no clue about it. So much for putting our faith in this generation.
Sanders goes so far as to suggest 20 movies that “document” racism in American culture. These movies include Roots, American History X, 12 Years a Slave, Glory, Tuskegee Airmen, Django Unchained, and Mississippi Burning, among others. Apparently, Ms. Sanders’ parents made her watch many of these growing up, and she would suggest the same for today’s millennials. Of course, an initial problem with this list is that millennials didn’t say that racism NEVER existed in this country (note how many of these are historically based films). They only say that it exists much less today.
And don’t you think that Ms. Sanders’ parents made her watch these movies says a LOT (and not in a good way) about how she views race in modern society? I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of this movie list is, to be quite honest, except maybe to remind millennials how guilty they should feel for the sins of their fathers, or least the sins of somebody’s fathers.
And the examples I’ve shown you above of those who are freaked out that today’s youth don’t believe in racism, think that we are moving beyond racism, and want to make racism a thing of the past is just the beginning.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that great anthropological and sociological expert, noted that “..more whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism.”
Andrew O’Hehir of Slate Magazine, moved into the realm of “White Privilege,” calling it, “an insidious virus that’s eating America from within.”
In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, recently, Gene Robinson at The Daily Beast wrote, After Ferguson, we all must renew our efforts to eliminate the scourge of racism from American life. Listen up, white people: we’ve got some serious work to do.”
And Jenee Desmond-Harris reminded us white folks that terms like, “inner city,” “states’ rights,” “cut taxes,” “law and order,” “Shariah law,” and “illegal aliens” are actually code words for racists. Thanks, Jenee!
But back to my original quandary as to why these people would be upset that the rising generation wants to move beyond racial labels and attitudes, and create a truly colorblind society.
Both Bouie at Slate Magazine and Professor Brendesha Tynes, quoted in the Latin Post, give us the (unsurprising) answer. According to Bouie, “Sixty-eight percent [of millennials] say ‘focusing on race prevents society from becoming colorblind.’ As such, millennials are hostile to race-based affirmative action: 88 percent believe racial preferences are unfair as a matter of course, and 70 percent believe they are unfair regardless of ‘historical inequalities.’”
Professor Tynes adds the following: ““If you subscribe to a colorblind racial ideology, you don’t think that race or racism exists, or that it should exist… You are more likely to think that people who talk about race and racism are the ones who perpetuate it. You think that racial problems are just isolated incidents and that people need to get over it and move on. You’re also not very likely to support affirmative action, and probably have a lower multicultural competence.”
AND THUS IT BECOMES CLEAR, DOESN’T IT? The reason these people are freaked out about young people being color blind is that… well, young people REALLY want to be color blind. That means that neither white people nor black people nor anybody of any color in the spectrum should be given special treatment because of the color of their skin.
That means no race-based affirmative action. It means no quotas. It means that we become the society we were supposed to be from our founding: a meritocracy, where a person succeeded or failed based on his or her hard work, abilities, and intelligence—his or her MERITS.
And this threatens those who fight for a non-color-blind society. These people can see the advantages that whites supposedly get (including those, according to O’Hehir, “we don’t notice, or take entirely for granted”), but ignore the advantages given to minorities.
Another personal story comes to mind. When I finished graduate school in 1993, there was a teaching position coming open at the university where I received my degree. I told my graduate committee that I was going to apply for the position, and asked if they would consider writing me letters of recommendation. They all agreed to do so. But after our meeting, more than one committee member pulled me aside in private and said, “Don’t waste your time applying for this job. You’re a white male; you don’t have a chance.”
Can you imagine if I had been a black female, and they had said to me, “Don’t waste your time applying for this job. You’re a black female; you don’t have a chance.” If that were the case, I’d be lying on a beach in the Caribbean right now enjoying my multi-million-dollar lawsuit settlement. But as a white male, I had no such recourse. And the author’s quoted above all scoffed to report that, “48% of whites believe that ‘discrimination against white people has become as big a problem as discrimination against racial minority groups.’”
The problem in our society is not racism or white privilege, it’s authors like the ones I’ve quoted here who are intent to keep alive the myth that because of racism or white privilege or whatever their pet personal slight is that day, certain people can’t get ahead.
THE REAL PROBLEM HERE, THE ONE IGNORED BY EVERY ONE OF THESE AUTHORS, IS HOW THE VERY SYSTEM THEY ARE DEFENDING IS HURTING MINORITIES IN THIS COUNTRY TODAY.
The problems faced by so many blacks today are caused by generations of African Americans being told that it’s no use to work hard, study in school, strive to succeed, because they’ll never make it because of the racist society in which they live.
This is a load of BS, and it’s destroying generation after generation of those who buy into it.
The greatest danger to minorities today is not white privilege. It’s the idea that they cannot succeed without laws that give them an artificial advantage over others, especially white people. As Akoukou succinctly states:
Racism isn’t a failure to invite blacks or Latinos to “the party;” racism is a reluctant invitation without giving directions, or the means to get there, or the means to afford the entrance fee or the food or the drinks there. Racism is (if they manage to make it to the party after overcoming all of those obstacles) making them feel unwelcomed or uncomfortable, or tokenizing them.
So blacks and Latinos can’t succeed in society unless whites invite them to the party, give them directions to the party, a means to get there, the entrance fee, money for food and drinks, and a welcome reception upon their arrival?
And yet so many blacks and Hispanics (and , if we want to go back through American history to trace immigration patterns in this country, Italians, Irish, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and many, many others) have been successful in our society. So many of ALL RACES have found their way to the party (nobody needs an invitation—this is America), scraped together the entrance fee, and enjoyed themselves whether they were afforded a warm welcome or not.
The insidious virus that’s eating America, to borrow O’Hehir’s language, is the race baiting that tries to keep whites feeling guilty and, far more importantly, keep blacks and other minorities from achieving what they could achieve. Until we get rid of the race baiters, the virus will continue to destroy lives that would otherwise be rich and full and successful.