White Americans often have a habit of assuming the best intentions. It’s a habit I still confront in myself.
We have faith in our institutions and in American exceptionalism. Especially the educated middle class and wealthier among us have been trained to be polite and respectful. We are predisposed to acquiesce.
I’ve struggled with this myself, both as someone who does believe a lot of important work can happen behind the scenes (calling in, rather than calling out) and as a journalist who is washed in the belief of “getting both sides.” This approach as it’s time to be effective. Issues of racial equity is not one of those times.
I run a community journalism organization in part because I believe independent voices that push honest, challenging and productive dialogue are vital.
Especially because of our audiences (a political range of business and civic minded with Technical.ly; and a social services coalition with Generocity.org), we can be a force for change in our communities. I find that everyday, which keeps me excited by our work. It’s even more true in moments of intense scrutiny.
On the heels of a pandemic and an ensuing economic shock, we are in the midst of one of the most consequential conversations on racial equity in a half-century — sparked by yet another high-profile murder of a Black man by a white police officer. I’ve found myself taking a critical look at how I’ve responded. I don’t do enough, but I’ve certainly already been to the “Acceptance Stage of Grief for white supremacy.”
The pandemic has removed distractions and laid bare this country’s foundation, allowing for the largest, most sustained, widespread protests in a half-century to bring about this generation’s high-water mark in white American’s engagement with racial equity.
Do something about it.
Dubbed the Antiracist Economist, Kim Crayton led a virtual version of her Introduction to Being Antiracist Saturday. My small community journalism organization paid for several coworkers and myself to attend, and we kept up a constructive dialogue as a team through the three-hour session.
For years, our company has done past trainings and our reportingapproaches seriously economic systems and still Kim’s approach and passion was enlightening, challenging and productive. For teammates who were new to this work and those of us who have tried to put in the work before, it was meaningful time well spent. (Thank you Kim)
You should engage her for your company, or attend her future seminars. (She does six-month engagements with companies and has other upcoming sessions This is not a duplication of her work, just sharing a few top-level notes that I can return to.
Though it’s several years old, I appreciated listening in greater detail and with fresh eyes. It’s as timely today as ever. Here I will share notes for me to return to, but I strongly suggest you listen to the entire excellent 14-episode series on “whiteness,” the historical construct of race and its implications today.
A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.
Privilege has nothing to do with how hard you work, or even what you deserve.
Among the many complexities we are confronting in our fist-flying, partisan online discourse, this is a translation issue. If you’re telling someone they’re privileged and you can’t understand why they get frustrated or tune you out, pause for a moment. Likewise, if you’re someone who has been called privileged and don’t understand why they ignore how hard you work, stop to consider.
In the wake of all this violence against Black men and women, how do a company and its employees cope? A look at how Technically Media is trying.
“On Wednesday, the morning after news broke that a police officer had shot a Black man named Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., our events coordinator Alexandria Leggett posted in #technically-POC, our private Slack group for people of color at the company.”
Though it was written just back in 2007, it was gone. I couldn’t quite find something that fit its point, so I reached out to Ferrick. He warmly shared some of the details of the now somewhat dated piece, as he said he’s working on revisiting the topic.
If for no other reason than for my own ability to link back to it in the future and to prove how valuable the web can be in making available so much powerful knowledge and information, below, with Ferrick’s permission, I share the notes he sent me.
White flight? In a reversal, America’s suburbs are now more likely to be home to minorities, the poor and a rapidly growing older population as many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes. [Source]
It’s complicated of course: new immigration trends chasing a different American dream, people of color from cities doing the same, white families from inner-ring suburbs moving farther from cities and younger white people moving back into those same cities (like me).
It helped that John McCain wasn’t running as John McCain. Growing up as a McCain fan and trained to support defensible nonpartisanship, I can report that I do believe Obama-Biden was the better choice for American progress than McCain-Palin. It became easy for me — even if it is uncomfortable to discuss political decisions as a journalist — to vote for Obama.
Similarly, unfairly, unjustly untruly or not, it seemed the media – particularly in Europe, from my experience – wanted Barack Obama in the office. That is perceived as a liberal bias in journalism but McCain made it easier with a Vice Presidential pick. Journalists should be wary of being perceived as being “for” a candidate.
Still, Obama confronts outlandish expectations for a new president. He has already been anointed as part of a great achievement of American freedom. As a supporter of the U.S. presidency, I hope he can do it. But he has to exceed the level of excitement around him that prompted one supporter to tell a CNN TV camera: “you hear about people seeing Ghandi and Martin Luther King…”
Obama was barely 2 years old when King gave his famous speech, 3 when Lewis was beaten about the head in Selma. He didn’t grow up in the segregated South as Bill Clinton had. Sharing those experiences wasn’t a prerequisite for gaining the acceptance of black leaders, necessarily, but that didn’t mean Obama, with his nice talk of transcending race and baby-boomer partisanship, could fully appreciate the sacrifices they made, either. “Every kid is always talking about what his parents have been through,” Rangel says, “and no kid has any clue what he’s talking about.”