Race and Privilege · Social Justice

Is it really about race?

When the discussion is about race, it easily becomes about the problems people of color face. It’s also easy to slip into colorblind objectives unless we actively stress the systemic inequality that is part of our racialized society and institutional oppression.

When the topic of discussion is about white privilege, we instead focus on the problems created because us whites are over-privileged. As individuals, we cannot deny those privileges that are deeply encoded into society both formally and informally. But we can chose to recognize that privilege and, by allying ourselves with people of color, learn to use that privilege in ways that may eventually lead towards a more just and inclusive society.

Ultimately, we need to enter into this discussion not because people of color need our help, but because we whites need their help in dealing with this sin.

Thanks to those who have been joining into discussions on this topic to help me begin to internalize this lesson.  This includes discussions the past week at the international community informatics research network conference; discussions the past couple of months with a Christian formation class at Twin City Bible Church focused on race and God’s call to justice; and the past couple of years through a reading group at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

0 thoughts on “Is it really about race?

  1. Martin,

    Thanks for extending this discussion to your blog. 🙂 I wish I could have attended more classes.

    In my own journey, I face a huge chasm of disbelief when I try to reconcile the inequities and injustices visited upon my fellow man simply because of skin color. It is so absurd that skin color is of any significance to race in the sense that skin color is such a wildly broad and sometimes inaccurate brush to paint with. And as we talked about in at least one of the classes you gave, what exactly is “race” anyway? This is not to pass off or brush aside your accurate statement of the problem of white privilege, but I think we need to keep our focus on the right place. The world does not revolve around us. 🙂

    For me, it comes down to forming relationships, building trust and having open, honest communications. With an emphasis on listening and empowering others. I am reminded of Carol McCloud’s “Have you filled a bucket today?” or the birthday story in Jon J. Muth’s “Zen Shorts“; when we give to others, our own bucket slowly fills up as well. But when we take, everyone loses. If only we thick-headed adults could remember these simple truths.

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