Words Get in the Way
Small Bites Friday Five 1-29-21
20-30m – Go to Project Implicit and pick a test or two. Use the insights to guide you in mitigating behaviors grounded in bias.
15-20m – Explore this PBS site on American Eugenics. The ‘biological improvement of the German people’ was not as rare as we would like to think.
10-15m – Continue exploring the hyperlinks from the above site.
5-10m – Read this American Bar Association article on bias in healthcare in the Black community. This is a good example of how systems are often biased (‘systemic racism’; ‘systemic inequity’).
0-5m – Just sit. The late poet laureate Maya Angelou advocated for a national day to just be. You might not be able to take the day but surely you can give yourself just 5 minutes to do absolutely nothing
Sometimes, we get so caught up in labels that we fail to tackle the actual issues. Words like White fragility or White supremacy are inflammatory and maybe even hurtful. I can understand that. Feeling accused never feels good, and it takes a big person to to take critique and look inward to see if there is some validity, and even more, some opportunity for growth.
If we can, let’s remove, for a moment, the tendency to bristle at words and phrases like racist, institutionalized racism, collusion, microaggression, white privilege, multiperspectivity or other terms that seek to address the deep and abiding problems in our country. What if we, instead, consider that institutions in America are designed to favor Whites.
There is compelling evidence that this is truth. The fact that only White males could vote for hundreds of years after our inception is one fact that supports the assertion that the country was not designed with equity for all in mind. Slavery and Jim Crow laws additionally point to the fact that only certain populations were included in the “all men are created equal” phrase. There is also the Manifest Destiny, the widely held cultural belief from the mid 1800s that White settlers were destined by God to take over all of North America. Never mind that there were many nations already inhabiting the land.
Colonization was big then, not only in America. But was it right? Was it just for the humans it has adversely impacted? Anti-racist “buzzwords” like those mentioned above can be painful to hear. But is that pain greater than the pain of those disenfranchised for centuries by the systems our country is built on?
Consider this: The US GDP is 21.43 trillion dollars, almost 10 trillion more than China, the country coming in second. How did we get to be that rich? Was it because we took land from others? Was it because Americans enslaved and trafficked humans to build wealth? In order to cause that kind of trauma to other humans, did we convince ourselves that they were less human than us, less capable of feeling pain? Less intelligent? Could it be possible, in the same way that we esteem our families over others, that we have allowed that devaluation of people who are not in ‘our group’ to continue?
I don’t have any answers. But I am asking you to stop and consider whether or not any of the above assertions might be grounded in truth. And if they are, how might that affect your classroom, campus or community?