CHICAGO — A recent Pew Research Center survey on perceived discrimination in America seems to confirm what some already believe is gospel: There is a disturbing and gaping divide between Republicans and Democrats on race.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents agreed that there is “a lot/some” discrimination against blacks and “little/no” discrimination against whites, while only 23% of Republicans felt this way.
In fact, 16% of people who identified as Republican or Republican-leaning said that whites experience “a lot” of discrimination, and another 39% felt they experience “some.”
Sigh. And, also, ugh!
The survey results are depressing, but unsurprising. Some of those white Republicans who feel discriminated against are out and proud. You see them coming in their red “Make America Great Again” hats, driving with Confederate flags on their pickups and posting signs on their lawns that say “We don’t call 9-1-1” along with the image of a handgun.
They’re the easy ones to avoid.
Meanwhile, 20% of those who are Democrats or lean Democratic believe there is “a lot/some” discrimination against white people. That’s, frankly, way too many.
And it’s clear that some of the self-identified white progressives and liberals who wear “Black Lives Matter” or “Build Bridges, Not Walls” T-shirts are actually somewhat clueless about black and brown people — unwittingly perpetuating racism against the very people they claim to defend. Robin DiAngelo, a white social-justice professor at Washington University, penned her book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” specifically for white progressives who believe they are allies to people of color.
“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color,” she writes. “I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the ‘choir,’ or already ‘gets it.’ White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”
Any Latinx person who has ever had a self-identified progressive ask them if they grew up in a barrio surrounded by gangs understands DiAngelo’s point. As does any black person who has been asked by a white person, with grave concern, if it’s acceptable to eat fried chicken or watermelon in their presence.
People of color navigate these indignities on a constant basis — in addition to openly derisive behavior from people who won’t deny that they don’t like us.
And while we understand that white allies can often simply be well-meaning, but clueless, we also know that they have the resources and power to do something about it.
There’s no need for anyone to be ignorant about how their implicit beliefs about others shape their daily interactions with people who are of a different race or ethnicity. Information about how to be anti-racist is freely available on the internet.
And books like DiAngelo’s or Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist” are a great start. They provide a wealth of resources — like other books and academic research — that are available to those who want to better themselves.
Whatever you do, would-be white allies, please don’t ask a person of color to teach you or show you the way. We have enough of our mental and emotional bandwidth taken up with navigating a country that is racist and, more often than not, doesn’t even suspect it and recoils at its racism being pointed out.
For the record: We thank all our white allies. Truly, we do. People of color have so little actual political, economic and social power in our communities and our jobs. We truly do need partners and supporters who can speak up for us when we find ourselves alone among whites who don’t have our best interests at heart.
Just please take the next step. Do some introspection and learning about your own racial beliefs and practices before assuming the position of Superfriend to the Marginalized.
© Washington Post Writers Group