Opinion | Susan Knopf: It’s about race
For the Record
The toothless woman shouted the N-word into the open car window. The woman she was shouting at is Gisele Fetterman, the Brazilian-born wife of the Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. For the record, her skin tone is about the same shade as Melania Trump. She is not of African descent.
Race was at the crux of the election of Donald Trump. Race is the foundation of what ignited the Jan. 6 coup attempt. Race is the basis of criticism of the Barack Obama presidency. He is the president who inherited one of the worst depressions in U.S. history and gave Trump an economy that performed better in his last quarter than Trump’s first quarter. The issue? Obama is Black.
In an infamous 1981 interview, Republican strategist Lee Atwater talked about the party’s strategy to choose “abstract” language over the N-word to avoid sounding racist.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ’n—–, n—–, n—–.’ By 1968, you can’t say ’n—–.’ That hurts you, backfires,” Atwater said. ”So you say stuff like … forced busing, states’ rights. … Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is Blacks get hurt worse than whites. … ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing … and a hell of a lot more abstract than ’n—–, n—–.’”
It’s all about race. Everything else they say is just code for race.
Conservative media is trying to equivocate and tell us the majority of demonstrators Jan. 6 were peaceful. They say only a minority busted into the Capitol, waved the Confederate flag, damaged property and called for hanging Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I guess Fox and OAN aren’t playing the same news footage I’ve seen. The peaceful folks outside erected gallows.
Try talking to anyone about race and see the fireworks. I was talking to a local colleague. He says he was raised in a predominantly Black neighborhood and his girlfriend was Black. He told me he has never seen institutionalized racism. Because he’s never experienced it, he said it can’t exist. I told him of course he wouldn’t experience it: He’s tall, white and handsome. Lot’s of privilege there. Just ask any short guy; he’ll tell you.
Our whole society is stratified by race, gender, religion, class, education, region, financial success, height, physical beauty. It’s complex, and it’s simple as pie.
I didn’t think I could be racist because I’ve experienced prejudice due to my gender, my place of birth, my religion, my academic standing, my family’s up-and-down again financial status. I was wrong.
Turns out if you’re white — regardless where you are born, how much money you have or how you’re ranked in society — you enjoy white privilege. The whole culture is constructed to favor whiteness.
Where is this coming from? “White Fragility, why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism,” a book by Robin DiAngelo.
DiAngelo says racism isn’t about people of color; racism is about white people. She says white people look at race in a binary way. In the 1960s, we saw angry mobs and officers harm people of color. These hateful people were labeled racists. As long as we do not consciously persecute people of color, we are “good.” “Good” people are not racists. Or are we?
When people talk about good schools, they usually mean white schools. When a neighborhood becomes as little as 5% Black or Hispanic, it usually precipitates white flight. It’s called the “tipping point.” You’ll find a good discussion of this in Michele Obama’s book, “Becoming.”
“(To) understand racism, we need to distinguish it from prejudice and discrimination,“ DiAngelo said. ”Prejudice is prejudgment about another person based on the social groups to which that person belongs. … Discrimination is action based on prejudice. … Racism is a system.”
I just finished a course on the topic with Loren Pierce Coleman. When I shared the ladder of race awareness with Summit Daily readers, I got inquiries about the next course. It begins Feb. 21 on Zoom. “Undoing White Privilege” is based on the book “The White Ally Toolkit Workbook” by David W. Compt, Ph.D. The course is offered under the auspices of the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council. The course is free, but donations are welcome. If you’re interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at email@example.com.
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