Warning: This post does not contain the folly typically found therein. Sorry. But non-folly thoughts were in my head and I needed to let them out.
Totally understand if you click away.
(I’ll judge you, but I’ll understand.)
This last week, I came to a startling realization: we White People are a sensitive lot.
Make that damned sensitive.
At the high school where I work, a video was shown to the staff on the topic of racial microaggressions. Some of the staff thought it should be shown to the students, so it was.
Parent phone calls ensued. Angry parent calls. Calls accusing us of Reverse Discrimination, White-shaming, and “pushing a left-wing, liberal agenda.”
(Because suggesting to kids that thinking before you speak and letting go of racial stereotypes is all part of a left-wing, liberal conspiracy. Imagine that.)
Now granted, these parents hadn’t seen the video, so they were only responding to what their kids told them.
And admit it, you didn’t watch the video either. For a quick overview, the statements below would all count as ‘racial microaggressions’:
You’re only good at sports because you’re Black.
You’ll get into college because of Affirmative Action.
Why do you act White?
Are you illegal?
What are you?
You speak good English for a Latina.
The term applies to other things too, such as clutching your purse when you walk past someone of color, sighing heavily when someone speaks with a heavy accent, and so on.
The ‘micro’ in the word does not imply these are insignificant, but that they are in the everyday. Something a person of color might experience or hear on a regular basis, in one form or another, over and over again.
Seems only natural we’d want to avoid them, right? I mean, if you’re someone who’d rather not be considered racist, if you think of yourself as being open-minded and intelligent, wouldn’t you want to know how these things come across so you don’t inadvertently say or do something stupid?
So why do you suppose students were complaining to their parents about the video?
Well, as one teacher told me, there’s a big jump in maturity from freshman to senior year, so not all kids are going have the life experiences and empathy skills needed to process this kind of subject.
I can see that. But their parents? Or our teachers?
More than one teacher said to me, “It’s like you can’t say anything anymore.”
(Seriously, what does that mean? Are comments based on stereotypes or ignorance the entirety of your conversational skills?)
And that’s when it hit me: we White People are damned sensitive. As soon as the subject of race comes up, we tense up and get defensive. Irrationally so.
Why is that, do you think? Is it fear? Guilt? A lack of compassion? (And before you take the default argument that it’s our current state of politics, I don’t agree. It might be more visible now, but I don’t think it’s anything new.)
Maybe it’s just human nature to be defensive of who we are and who we imagine ourselves to be. Maybe all people are this way?
If so, is there any hope for us?
In any case, I have to say I’m confused by people’s reactions. It seems to me that if someone says, “Hey, I’d rather you not say that because this is what it sounds like to me,” the proper response is, “Oh, I’m sorry. I never thought of it that way.” And then you don’t say it again.
And even if you think the person took it wrong or was being overly sensitive, you still apologize and move on. Because that’s what decent folk do.
And that’s what we should be teaching our kids!
Anyway, these are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head.
What about you? Any thoughts on the subject?