People complain all of the time of what a burden it is to be “politically correct” as if it is a major intrusion on their lives. They act as though eliminating stereotypes or pretentious jokes that mock people based on race or social class will leave them with nothing else to say.
When you laugh and tell people to “calm down, it’s just a joke” you are implying that they need to just “take it”, swallowing their feelings for the sake of your amusement. It is the modern way to silence the victim, creating a culture of shame where any mention of race is discredited as “pulling the race card”. The privileged assume that as long as they consider themselves to be an overall good person (and especially if they have friends of color) they should be allowed to say whatever they want without anyone taking offense.
The script is flipped so quickly it becomes a blur. Rather than reflecting on the words that have been said and considering the implications they may have unknowingly made, the offender accuses the person who challenges them. They are at fault for being “too sensitive” or “reading too much into it”.
Yes, it is hard to avoid the stereotypes and racist perceptions that saturate our culture. It takes a conscious effort. It requires thinking before you speak or post something on social media.
But seriously, after decades of enjoying unearned privileges the least you can do is watch your mouth.
We all mess up. I do it all the time. My hope is that I will use those mistakes to listen and learn rather than justify what I said.
White people especially need to realize that is is a luxury not to have to think about race all of the time. The reason we don’t have to be vigilant about the way the color of our skin affects the way we are being treated is because in the vast majority of situations, it works to our advantage.
After reading an article about racial micro aggressions in one of my classes the other day, we were asked to work in small groups to discuss the question:
“Why are so many white/privileged people convinced that racism is no longer an issue?”
People who think we are living in a post-racial society need not look any farther than the schools to see that they are greatly mistaken. Minnesota in particular has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country.To those who think these disparities have more to do with class than race, countless studies have shown that the gap between white students and students of color persists even amongst students from the same income level.
- “Graduation rates for students of color are half that of white students. In Hennepin County, 63 percent of black students, 76 percent of Hispanic students and 86 percent of Native American students don’t graduate from high school.” (Wieland, Star Tribune)
- Since 2006, the achievement gap has increased by 10 percentage points in high school math between white and Hispanic students and between white and black students on the annual state test (NCES)
I often hear the people whine about how “Students of color get all of the scholarships these days! It’s reverse racism!” According to the information above, white students clearly continue to have the upper hand in education, despite efforts to increase access to educational opportunities for all students.
I see this reality every single day in the work that I do. It can get discouraging to run a tutoring program that tries to bridge the gap, knowing that an hour a week will never be sufficient. It is heart breaking to get to know bright, resourceful and talented kids who will have to literally fight for their lives in order to be successful in this state.
The last thing these precious little ones need is jokes made at their expense, whether it’s someone mocking what they perceive to be the “gangsta” way they dress or making fun of their parent’s limited English skills. It’s not funny to laugh about their names or mimic the way they speak. A “harmless joke” here and there adds up to a culture that conditions kids to internalize racism and self hatred and to believe that some people are inherently better than they are.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” –Gautama Buddha
Let’s do better.