A White Man's Perspective on Racism

Are you racist?

White People:

1. Yes - I agree with you.   I know that I am racist.   It is not because I am "worse" than other people. It is not because I am "blatantly racist", like many white nationalists.   I live in a racist world and have learned to be racist, despite a lot that I have done to try to not be racist.

2. No - I suggest that you start watching at least the beginning of  White Fragility on YouTube.

People of Color:

1. Yes - You might want to read my blog writing: Can Black People Be Racist?

2. No - I agree with you.   You can only be racist if you, as a person of color, have power over me, because of your race.   You can treat individual white people unfairly, with hatred or otherwise inappropriately.  That does not make you racist.

Should I be working on racism issues in my personal life?

White People:

1. Yes - I agree with you.

2. No - I disagree with you.   I do not believe that we will be able to move towards ending racism until many, if not most, white people see the need to work seriously, within themselves, at a minimum, on racism issues. 

By us, white people, not working on racism issues, we tacitly indicate that people of color are responsible for ending racism.   Those who are victimized by racism can not stop us white people from continuing to support racism through being "normal".   We aren't racist because of anything bad that we have done.   We learn to be racist (structurally) through living in a racist environment throughout our lives.

People of Color:

I think that the issue is moot.   I believe that, of necessity, you face racism issues, simply by being of color.   I believe that you are forced to "work" on such issues, simply to get by every day in your life.

Why are you making me feel guilty about being white?

I am not trying to make you feel guilty.    Any guilt you may feel, by itself, is much more likely to stop you from moving towards positive work against racism, than help you, in any way.

Should I feel shame?

I can not say whether you should feel shame or not.   Feeling shame for what white people have done can be entirely appropriate.   I feel shame for what white men did to Native Americans over centuries, taking their lands and doing many things to destroy their culture and lives.   I feel shame for how Latino people lost much of what is now the southwestern  and western United States to white people and how their culture and lives were threatened and ended.

I feel shame at a variety of things that were and are still done to black people.   Slavery is an obvious area.   As a Jew, I am ashamed that there were significant numbers of Jewish slave owners.   I am ashamed that after slaves  were "freed" in 1865, they were (and unfortunately still are) treated as second-class people and oft times not even "citizens".   

I am ashamed that black young men are killed by the police and private citizens, due purportedly to feeling threatened, when much of the time the killings are totally unjustified.   I am ashamed that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin only a few years ago and was not successfully prosecuted for murder.

I am ashamed that we look at so many mass killings in our public high schools, and do not identify and see it as a "white  male" problem.   Nearly all the killers are young white males, but we do not say that and deal with it related to this reality.   I am ashamed that we do not see that these killings are often directed at girls and women and do not say so.

I am ashamed that many, many American Jews, such as myself do not see Palestinians and Muslims as people who deserve respect and equal rights with Jews such as ourselves.   I am ashamed that Muslim women and others of color  (such as are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) are vilified in Congress, and accused of being anti-semitic, while those who really showing anti-semitism, such as several white, republican congressman are not called on their anti-semitism and racism.

I am ashamed that intelligent, thoughtful caring black people such as Professor Marc Lamont-Hill, Angela Davis, and Michelle Alexander, can speak out against the mistreatment of Palestinian people by Israel, and their words are discounted, and they are accused of being anti-semitic, and few point out the strange coincidence that they are all black.

I am ashamed that black people have been, and still are forcibly expelled from communities they reside in within much of the United States, outside of the south, because they are black (see: Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen).    I am ashamed that the father of one of my high school classmates at West Lafayette High School (Indiana), in 1966 helped pressure the parents of our only black classmate among over 800 white students, leave West Lafayette so that our high school was again solely a "white high school".

I am ashamed and angry that several months ago a male classmate of mine said to me that I was concerned about racism because my wife is black, and neither of the other two white classmates who were there, spoke out against that statement.

I am ashamed that many years ago I referred to a younger black co-worker as "boy" and continued doing this until a black co-worker explained to me that  I was acting inappropriately.

I am ashamed that in December, 2018, while walking in South Beach, in Miami Beach, Florida, while walking with my wife, I did not notice that white women coming from the other direction towards us, never yielded to B, subconsciously (I hope) demonstrating their internalized racism.

Should you, if you are white, ask people of color if you are racist and/or treat them in racist manners at times?

People of color have learned over and over again that white co-workers and friends are racist, even while they affirm their anti-racist identities.   People of color do not have a responsibility to teach us white people.   It is likely that one may not get an honest answer if one asks such questions.   We, white people, can go back to "normal" in our largely white worlds after our conversation is over.   People of color may fear repercussions, or simply being not heard, if they tell us their truths about racism, when asked questions directly, unless we build an open, honest relationship related to racism beforehand.

What should people of color do to help end racism?

I can not honestly answer that question.  I am not of color.    Anything positive that they do is great and probably not "deserved", because they don't owe us anything.   We, white people, can and should try to understand and support people of color.   We should recognize that they are individual people who we need to accept as individuals who are of color.


White Fragility - is an incredibly good, 83 minute long video (YouTube) of Professor Robin DiAngelo talking to white people about racism.  It is highly recommended, particularly for white people.   It discusses Dr. DiAngelo's book of the same name.


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