This term, I am taking a class about racism, ethnicity, and technology. A mere three weeks in, I have found myself thinking about things I never have before.
To start with, there is Peggy McIntosh‘s list of “the daily effects of white privilege” in her life. In her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, Ms. McIntosh considers things like:
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am told that people of my colour made it what it is.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
The list goes on. Please read the rest of the list.
The following image was borrowed from PostSecret and subsequently, I borrowed it from the linked blog:
Do we? Do we know how lucky we are?
A few decades ago, comedian Eddie Murphy embarked on a journey to see what the world was like for a white man. I couldn’t figure out how to post the video here, so you’ll have to click on the photo below to watch the video on another site.
Alright, it’s a bit exaggerated, but did you notice no one in the audience laughed during the scene where he is at the counter, trying to comprehend why the white clerk won’t let him pay for the newspaper? There’s something here. We realize that there IS a difference!
Did you know that 80-90% of the jobs available in the USA aren’t posted in places where the majority of the population can see them. Or the fact that “urban renewal” (making downtown pretty) has destroyed the homes and playgrounds of people who can’t afford to live anywhere but downtown? The majority of those people without access and without playgrounds? Yup, you guessed: people of colour.
Then there is also the fact that, even though we talk a lot about women getting paid less than men, we tend not to even think about the people of colour who are doctors and lawyers in their home countries but whose training is not accepted in Canada, and so they are forced to drive taxis and work as custodians. They make less than white women. Non-white women make even less as nannies and fast-food workers.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Racism is live and well. Racism is inside us. We the whites were born with it, merely because white isn’t a race. We think of white as normal, and non-white as “other”. Racism might look like this:
Whites have privileges we don’t even think about. But we should. Imagine if it were Barack Obama’s teenage daughter rather than Sarah Palin’s that were pregnant…
But that’s the United States, right, Canadians?
How about the Attawapiskat Housing Crisis in northern Ontario?
I feel ashamed knowing that I will likely never have to live like people in my own province live every day, that my children will never have to live in tiny, mold-infested smoky rooms, or live off of KD and pepperoni sticks.
It is not likely that I will be able to lessen our society’s embedded racism through anything that I do, but at least I can perhaps tear the blinders off of other people’s eyes. White is a race, too. And we are guilty of being ignorant about the inherent privilege we are born into, no matter which class we belong to.
(Thanks to my professor, Dr. Warren Steele, for these videos, & inspiration)