Ryan Flynn –
Why talk about race?
The majority of white Americans believe that we are at least 50% of the way there to eliminating racism in the country, but not everyone agrees with that.
Ask most African-Americans and that number is usually less than 25%.
There is also this common held belief within the white community that race is talked about too much, and that by talking about it too much it exacerbates the issue. African-Americans would agree with this statement, but not in an outward free speech sort of way, but with their other black friends and family, because race for a black person is an everyday issue that a white person does not have to deal with.
With both races, racism is part of an identity. With white Americans it is privilege and with African-Americans it is a hindrance. There is a privilege of being white in this country, whether you want it or not. However, there is a constant stream of bias and stereotyping in place of privilege when you are an African-American in this country. The fact that a person of color cannot walk down the streets of New York City and not have to worry about being stopped, is biasness that has been unchallenged.
We cannot avoid talking about race either. John L. Jackson, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication conducted an experiment in 2010. He tried to not hold any conversation either externally or internally for 40 days, and from day one found that it was impossible to do. He found he couldn’t even read newspapers or online articles based even on their headings, but subconscious racism was present. On the experiment he said, “The experiment proved that if you’re not talking about race at all you’re not actually talking about the contemporary moment in a way that’s going to get us to someplace progressive.”
By now you are probably wondering, and maybe you have been wondering this since the first article I wrote in this series about race, “why is a white guy talking about race?”
The answer is simple. Why not?
We have this expectation in this country that if you are black, you have the obligation to speak for your race and “represent the black community.” That is unfair. Why should a person’s color dictate how they can speak on certain subjects, dictate how they approach a subject, or dictate what they can speak on in general?
Race is an issue whether you are white, black, purple, yellow, or any other color. Whether it is a privilege or a hindrance, it affects you and has the ability to affect all those around you. If you gain a privilege simply for being a certain skin color, I can assure you there is somebody near you who is being denied that same privilege because they are different than you.
We all need to talk about race, even if it is a long and complex conversation. It has to start sometime and somewhere.
So why not now?
Ryan Flynn, from Jacksonville, Illinois, is a senior history major at Illinois College. Ryan is Opinions Editor for The Rambler, TRiO Social Committee President, and Class Chair for the Class of 2015.