Today, a friend forwarded me a report from the Pew Research Center that focused on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. An excerpt:
But as historic as it was, a half century later many Americans — particularly blacks — still believe that the country has a ways to go in overcoming racial disparities.
A CBS News poll conducted in late March found that while 59% of Americans — including 60% of whites and 55% of blacks — considered race relations in the U.S. to be generally good, about half (52%) thought there was real hope of ending discrimination altogether while 46% said there would always be a lot of prejudice and discrimination. About six-in-ten blacks (61%) held the view that discrimination will always exist compared to 44% of whites.
In other words: people of color have a much different view of race relations in this country. Again.
The implications for this get even more complicated when we look at the accompanying statistics about public schools. When asked whether Blacks were treated less fairly than whites in local public schools, only 15% of whites, 35% of Latinos / Hispanics, and 51% of Blacks believe this. In other words, for every white person who believes this, 2 Latinos and 3 Black people are absolutely shaking their heads at the 85% of white folks who don’t.
Which makes the idea of speaking about institutional racism that much more important.
Unfortunately, many teachers in the classroom don’t “see” race when they see kids, and / or don’t see themselves as agents to an institution that makes many children of color feel like they don’t actually belong to them. They’re “colorblind” because they either don’t want to deal with it, don’t know how, or implicitly have a blind eye to their privilege. Or all of those.
That’s the thing about privilege: people like me often have to point them out in order to make others more reflective.
In the 21st century, we can no longer blame any one region of the country or political “side” for racism. One of the most left-leaning states in the nation, New York, also leads the nation in segregated schools, a function of the rise of charter schools and not-so-secret redlining. This may have shocked a lot of folks, but there’s a critical mass of us who’ve waited far too long to say I told you so.
We’re the ones in the other table you refuse to sit at. It’s cool. We got stories, too.