But I’m Not Racist

Get Out (2017) is a new horror film that shows racism for the horror that it is. The artist behind the film, Jordan Peele, known for his wry cultural commentary, addresses “the way America deals with race” and portrays racism as it is: demonic.

I have written on race and privilege before. In the cultural environment perpetuated by POTUS 45, dialogue must remain open.

When white people are confronted with racism and white privilege, we say things like:

  •   I’m not racist, I have black friends.
  •   I don’t see race, I’m colorblind.
  •   I’m not privileged, I can barely make ends meet.

I believe you when you say you don’t consciously treat anyone differently based on the color of their skin.

So, I’ll speak for myself:

  • I am white.
  • I am privileged.
  • I am racist.

Racism is endemic in the history and development of our country.  It’s how we are conditioned.

Jacqueline Battalora traces the history of the invention of “white people,” who have been “conditioned to be white.” In the late 1600’s, lawmakers fought back rebellion against injustices in the capitalist plantation system by enacting laws that divided people by race, giving them separate status, compounding injustice. Whites became the powerful plantation elite, “aligning them with a claim to liberty and freedom that would be denied to others.”

The lengths to which the powerful will go to maintain power isn’t surprising.

As a white, female, Christian seminarian, however, it outrages me that the desire for power made an entire race of human beings “the enslaved other.” This enslavement was intentionally developed so that the capitalist plantation system could be run by a dominant group (whites), assigning non-whites with a subordinate status. Entire cities were built around this notion that whiteness is superior (Baltimore, for example) and blackness is servitude.

Racism was written into the very fabric of our democracy.

Jay Smooth explains institutional racism in this short video:

Even if you, individually, do not consciously commit racist acts, racism still exists. White people don’t usually see it, though, because it doesn’t affect us.

Jennifer R. Holladay provides a helpful guide to white privilege:

When you go to the doctor to get a cut bandaged, do you notice how the “flesh-colored bandage” doesn’t match the color of your own flesh?

Of course not; you’re white.

When you apply for a job, does your skin color work against you in terms of how people perceive your abilities? Do people assume you got your job because of “affirmative action?”

Of course not; you’re white.

When you walk into a store, do security personnel watch your every move because of your race?

Of course not; you’re white.

This is how dominant group privilege chips away at “the other.”

As a Christian seminarian, I should note that every world religion/philosophy calls for us to move beyond the marginalization of “the other” and “love our neighbors” (Luke 10:25-28).

  • Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Judaism)
  • Bahá’u’lláh: “…choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.” (Bahá’í)
  • The Udanavarga: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Buddhism)
  • An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith 13: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (Islam)

So, what can white people do to be better neighbors to people of color?

One way is to call out racist comments and actions when we see them.

As Jay Smooth notes, it’s less about what someone is and more about what someone did. Address the issue, not the personality.

Want to do more? This Google doc also has excellent suggestions.

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