I remember that day in Freshmen English class in college. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The main thrust, back in 1969, was Black Literature and a study of racism. The class was large and pretty much as white as could be. I remember clearly the professor asking us to raise our hands if we were racist. Of course he had us, he knew that we wouldn’t raise our hands; of course we were not racist. He proceeded to tell us that we were all liars and off base, and that each and every individual has racism in his/her nature. I was quite impressed and humbled by his routine. The class was great and informative. I had no idea what a lifelong effect he and his class would have on me.
It occurs to me, as I look on the Facebook pages, that we, as the privileged white, have truly managed to do our best to fool others, including ourselves, deluding ourselves into believing that we have evolved beyond our inherent racism, and truly care about everyone. In some respects, those of the white class that we put down for racism are at least more openly honest than we northerners who do a great job of pretending that we are totally without prejudice.
We live in an affluent suburb, definitely not the most affluent, but that is neither here nor there. We live in a town that prides itself on being aware that injustice exists in the world and that we need to fight it. We truly need to do more than just fight it in an external way; we have often forgotten that we need to fight it within us.
Each and every one of us privileged whites has been unfortunately gifted with a cultural plan of self-protection. We talk big, those of us who are supposedly educated, and we make our trips here and there to help those who are needier than we are. I wonder though, how many of us would welcome a change in our North Shore village of less privileged people living in the community and possibly next door. When Public Housing first came into Deerfield, it somehow turned into Senior Subsidized housing, something that both my mother and mother-in-law have benefitted from. That was a distinct plan on the part of the population since although we talk big; we don’t want the people of other color or financial status in our community.
So we go out, we teach, we talk, we throw parties far away from us, we do benevolent things and then we feel good and as if we have done our part.
When I say all these things, I am including myself. There is such a fear of change, a fear that danger lurks, a fear that is inspired even by the visual of people who are not like us.
I am trying to name this all, so that I can understand it more, and continue to work on eradicating it from my nature. I will not succeed but I am certainly going to try. We all need to do this.