The next time you are at the metaphorical water-cooler, and you overhear your co-worker Karen say something racist, again, for the third time this week, do not say nothing.
It is that simple. White people, especially, have to speak up when we hear hate and oppression against people of color. We must help lift up the voices of those minorities in the event of casual racism.
This person at the water-cooler, Karen, represents every person you overhear say something racist. Whether it be someone you just met or your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, the uncomfortability of confrontation is worth the effect it will have when we use our voices to silence the hate inflicted upon minorities. It is worth it when suddenly Karen is no longer saying things without any education or social intelligence. She is asking questions and trying to learn how she can do better. This is the effect that will change the system.
So what do we say after we speak up? The key component in this situation is the complete value of education. From a website designed for tolerance on racism and white privilege, consider the following:
When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.
When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.
When we look at the privileges assigned to white people, we cannot simply look at the face value of it. Literally everything we experience in day-to- day life no matter how big (getting a job) or small (travel size shampoo bottles) is a result of the privileges we are assigned as white individuals. Taking a step back, realizing these aspects and asking ourselves these types of questions will help change the mindset of people like Karen, or at least it is a start.
Privilege comes in all shapes and sizes, including a racial bias. A cop may give a ticket to a black driver for speeding, but will give a warning to a white motorcyclist. This is discriminating and racist. Whether the cop knows he or she is doing this or not, it is still a racially biased outcome in a simple situation. If a white person were to ask a store if their child can use the “employees only” restroom and they are allowed to, they must ask themselves if the person who granted them access for their child would do the same for a child of color.
It is simply a matter of looking at things systematically. Recently at a Florida university, a professor created a class called “white racism” which resulted in so much uproar from white people that police were requested to be on standby on campus. The uproar is caused by those who believe the class in and of itself is racist. But if we look at this systematically, it is far from it. Until another race is as segregated in the system as people of color, there is no need for a class about another race. The United States is systematically designed to benefit white people.
To learn more about white privilege and systems of racism and oppression, watch documentaries like “13” on Netflix or the infamous documentary “White Like Me.” Karen will not be the only one. It is the job of the majority to help educate and lift the voices of those who are not listened to.