I’ve always been someone who stood up to people when I felt that they were disrespecting and hurting others. Whether it was because of race, a language spoken, a miscommunication or because of one’s gender, I’ve never quite been able to keep my mouth shut.
I admit, I thought that because of my ability to stand up for people that excused my behavior for not doing more. “I’m doing what I can,” I’d tell myself. But that’s not true! What if everyone felt the same way? No wonder we haven’t been able to put a stop to this age-old fight against racism, hatred and prejudice.
In class, we recently watched a film titled, White Like Me by Tom Wise, an acclaimed anti-racist educator and author. In the film Wise discussed so many topics and points of history that I already knew. But why did this film make me cry (six times to be exact) and get angry with myself?
There came to a part in the film, probably around crying session number two, when Tim Wise was discussing how he was being an advocate for those who were racially oppressed in their schools when one girl asked, “What exactly are you doing to stop it?”
I think it was at that moment where I just got so angry! Just because I may stop and say something to someone every once in a while when I see it doesn’t mean that I am doing enough to combat the issue. My standing up doesn’t stop the boy at the grocery store from getting gun shots into his torso. It doesn’t stop the father from being killed mercilessly in front of his daughter.
I need to do more.
At one point in the film, Wise discussed former US President, Barack Obama’s election in 2008. He brought to light the point that once Obama was inaugurated people began to say that racism in America was over. As if the election of the first African-American president would simply wipe away any thoughts of hatred from people’s minds allowing them to just accept everyone equally. As much as I wish that was the case, it wasn’t.
People openly stated that they wouldn’t vote in their party just because of a black man. They threatened him. Not because of his policies or involvement with the government but because of this blatant hate for someone who is unlike them.
I can’t remember if this quote was from the film or just something I saw online but it is absolutely true.
You’re not being ‘oppressed’ when another group gains rights that you’ve always had.
Dating back from the Civil Rights movement to current events now with our newest president, Donald Trump, many people still feel that African Americans and all other minorities are taking their jobs, taking their schools, taking control of their government. But I feel as though those people are upset with the fact that these minorities are finally getting the opportunities that they have always had. It’s really upsetting.
The point is, White Like Me made me realize that there are so many more things that I could be doing to help better not only my country but better the way people are being treated. By actively participating in peaceful protests, holding conversations with those around me (especially my family) as well as using my position as a journalist to make my voice as well as the voices of those under spoken around me heard, I would be just scratching the surface of making an improvement.
To close, I recently wrote an article for an online magazine talking about white privilege. It focuses on a new perspective/approach and I’m hoping that this will be a good first step to becoming more active in the fight against racism. It includes mainstream music and examples of privilege from day to day life that hopefully people will be able to relate to.
Feel free to read my article, White Privilege: A New Approach and leave a comment to let me know what you think!