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Our university newspaper recently printed an letter to the editor. The author claimed to have the solution to racism. Wow! To think that our nation has wrestled with this issue centuries, and all we needed to do was ask this punk college sophomore from Podunk, Indiana. Well, shit. Give him a Nobel.
His argument is that organizations and events that celebrate minorities are counterproductive in bringing equality. He makes the case that institutions like the NAACP and Black Heritage Month perpetuate racial differences. He argues that it isn’t fair because one would be branded as a racist if one tried to have an association for the advancement of Caucasian people or a Caucasian heritage month.
Let me pull out my favorite quotes from the article:
As a Christian, white, middle-class, American male, I feel discrimination, too.
Aw. Do you? Sorry, Pooper.
Of course, historically our country was built on (mostly black) slave labor. While slavery is done and gone, many people alive today can remember segregated drinking fountains. And don’t forget that we lied to, abused, stole from, starved and murdered the vast majority of Native Americans. Women didn’t have the right to vote less than one hundred years ago. But that’s all history, right? It doesn’t have any influence on the present. That’s what’s so great about the United States of Amnesia!
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, white people are 57% more likely to have a college degree. White households earn on average 63% more than black households. Based on those statistics, I can think of two logical conclusions: 1) Black people are biologically less intelligent and less capable than white people, or 2) white people benefit from a system that discriminates based on race. If you want to argue the first conclusion, go for it. I’m more likely to believe that these inequalities exist because our society functions to benefit white people.
So perhaps Podunk Punk was right; it’s not fair that blacks have a whole month to celebrate their heritage while white people don’t. Then again, maybe our country celebrates white heritage for the entire rest of the year. See, the problem is that Podunk Punk assumes that our societal system is already fair. He assumes that inequalities don’t exist. This simply isn’t true. If the system were fair, disparities wouldn’t exist.
My tone thus far has been cheeky and sarcastic. I’m need to shift gears here. I have a confession to make, so let me speak honestly and with humility.
I benefit from a system that values me more because of the color of my skin, and that is absolutely wrong. That makes me racist. Sure, I’m no Klansman. My racism is a more subtle, passive complicity than overt violence, but it is racism nonetheless.
It makes me angry that the system works this way. I get defensive because I am a part of this system. I know it’s not right, but I don’t know how to change it.
If anyone has ideas, I’m listening.