Stop asking people of color to prove that racism still exists…

To write is to have words in your soul that matter deeply to you; words that ultimately you hope matter to someone else.  Over the past decade I have been blessed to have my words read by others and I like to imagine that they add something of value to my readers. However as more people read my words there is a specific type of reader that I keep meeting who frankly exacerbates me. After months of not knowing what to make of this type of reader, I have decided to call this type of reader “prove it reader”. I write about race, a topic that for many white Americans is about as comfortable as a root canal with anesthesia gone wrong.

Prove it reader while annoying is representative of many white Americans who when faced with real dialogue on race relations in 2013 tend to shy away and often without conscious intent fallback on behavior that is part of the very fabric of structural inequality that I am talking about.

Ours is a culture where white values and morals are the default setting of what is seen as acceptable and right and when people of color fit into the model of white values they are viewed as normal and when they do not fit the white lens they are seen as problematic. But why are white values and ways of being the norm especially in a nation where people of color are rapidly moving to a majority minority position?

In choosing to ask a person of color to prove racism, you are essentially saying that I don’t believe you or your claims. I often wonder if these same people ask rape survivors to prove that they have been victimized. I would imagine in many cases the answer to that question would be no.

As I have said before, today’s racism is less likely to be personal than in decades past.  Today’s acts of racism are no longer as overt and obvious to all except those struggling under the weight of inequality. When a well-meaning white person wonders why crime rates are so high in the Black community, have they bothered to ask are the resources in those communities equal to what is in my community? Instead it is easier to assume that Blacks are more violent, make poor choices and basically are reaping what they have sowed than it is to question the system that is not fair and just to begin with.

Case in point, the educational system in America is designed to be unfair because the quality of your very schools depends on proximity to wealth and whiteness. One need not be a scholar to figure out that a model that uses tax revenue to fund local schools will result in schools in wealthier (and often white) areas having better resources. While this is not always an absolute and there are exceptions, it trends that way more often than not. Instead we focus on the symptoms of inequality and continue to miss the actual problem.

In addition to education, we have decades of data in housing, healthcare and criminal justice for starters that show that things are not equal no matter how much we wish it were. Yet for many white Americans this data is ignored and the fallback is that racism is gone and if it is real, you…person of color need to prove it.

In choosing to ask a person of color to prove that inequality is real, you are part of the system that is intent on dehumanizing anyone who falls outside of the unspoken rules of acceptable and right. It is also intellectually lazy and even dishonest when a white person chooses to put the burden of proof on a person of color, data is easily accessible, if you truly want to learn and see, you need to put in the heavy work of learning.

So to all my prove it readers and acquaintances, I am asking you to start doing the heavy lifting in your life which means investing your time and energy into learning more. I am an ally in the fight for change but I live it, so please stop asking people like me to do all the work.

6 thoughts on “Stop asking people of color to prove that racism still exists…

  1. I am as white as white gets, but hope that I am not a Prove-It white person. I think you may have coined a new term…
    I work (30 years) in education in a mostly white but “diverse” district. That used to be code for African-American, but now it’s mostly code for Spanish-speaking families, as the African-American community has dwindled in terms of its children. Housing for a family is too expensive here for people who are no longer needing public housing but not already established outside it and not seeking to move in–already professional. This is true for everyone here, actually.
    There is no doubt in my mind that racism is alive and well. I recognize that I don’t always “see” it when it happens in front of me, but I often do–sometimes I can work against it, sometimes not–and sometimes I realize it was me doing it, though I try to correct that right away. I am fortunate to work and live with people who are also aware and working against it, but we are all part of it, too, I think…

  2. If you are part of a majority group it can be hard to see minority issues. This goes for race, class, language, etc.

    If you are in an upper middle class area like I grew up in north of Princeton, NJ it can be hard to realize the struggles of being poor in Trenton only a few miles away.

    Well written.

    edmund

  3. It’s frustrating and disheartening. I watched Jane Elliot’s workshops called “How Racist Are You,” (where she tries to show whites that they are racist), and it’s the same thing.

    All of the whites deny that they’re racist, even when its clear that they are. On the one hand, why would you expect a “majority” race to admit something that would put them back, so to speak?

    The video series is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAv8JA_9uKI

  4. “the quality of your very schools depends on proximity to wealth”

    Yes

    ” and whiteness. ”

    No.

    You are falling into the same trap that people who cite crime statistics to say black people are more violent.

    This isn’t a race issue, this is a poverty issue. A white person in the crappy part of town will be just as screwed educationally as a black person in the crappy part of town.

    Keep race out of poverty issues!

    • Actually Robert that’s not true.

      Studies show that even in instances where there are a few whites in a school and the majority are non-whites, those few whites are more likely to get assistance, be it financial, emotional, or practical.

      Those children are more likely to hear positive statements about their capabilities, given extra tutoring and guidance,etc.

      And that holds true, unfortunately, even when many of the teachers are minorities.

      The opposite is also true: black students in predominantly white schools are given the subtle message that they cannot succeed.

      Sometimes the teacher will “forget” to include a black student in critical school/career/university opportunities, but more likely the student might be accused of getting “too good” grades.

      A white person, even a poorly educated one,can rise up and advance without discrimination. He can educated himself, lose his “ghetto accent” – essentially fake it.

      A person of color will take their skin with them no matter how successful they are.

      • I would welcome any sources that show that that there are differences in school results for whites/non-whites when income/poverty is controlled for.

        I have been an advocate of extra resources for poverty in our educational system for years now. There is no need to dilute this with anecdotes of who/what else is to blame.

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