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Overcoming “Nice” Racism

We’ll finish our discussion with Dr. Darron Smith of the University of Memphis today and finish off by talking about how to overcome racial discrimination.  A lot of people think when you use the word “racism”, it only applies to hostile communications.  Smith talks about “nice” racism.

Darron:  Yes, I have a nice bumper sticker that says that.  Utah the nicest racists you’ll ever find.  It says that on the bumper.  It’s really kind of cool.  Yes I think people, the lay public, tend to think that racism is about individual acts of meanness, aggression, you know one race against another.  ‘I hate you Rick, you cracker.’  ‘I hate you Darron, you nigger.’  Right?  That’s what they think racism is.

That’s very small.  That’s inter-personal racism.  That’s where it stops for most people.  They don’t go beyond that.  We’re talking about institutionalized racism, we’re talking about practices, patterns, behaviors, beliefs that get imbued into an institutional standard or norm, and people are racist by practice, racist by default, racist by privilege in the sense that whites in this country benefit from racism because racism allows whites more privilege because of their skin complexion.  Being white means you have more privilege in this country because you don’t have to deal with driving while black.  You don’t have to deal with being kicked out of BYU because you had sex with some girl who wanted to have sex with you, or you don’t follow the Honor Code, or whatever the issue is, whatever the stereotypical notions that follow around people are, I don’t have to, white people don’t have to worry about that.  That’s something that whites take for granted in a racist society.

Blacks and other groups that are marginalized have to constantly deal with that on some level whereas whites don’t.  So that’s the difference.  White Americans look at race as an interpersonal phenomenon and it stops there.  What I’m saying, at least what I think you are saying or at least alluding to in your question is that it’s deeper than that.  It’s amorphous yet it’s superfluous.  It’s everywhere.  We engage in it all the time, but we don’t even know about it. We’re unconscious of it much of the time until it’s brought to our [attention.]

We’ll talk about the less overt racism and how to overcome these problems.

So the Good Samaritan Rule only applies to whites.  Whites are more apt to help other white people, they’re less apt to help other people, especially blacks.  Blacks are more apt to help other people as well as other blacks.  Other groups are more apt to help other people as well as their own group.  Whites are the only group that has no love for others, maybe Asian, maybe sprinkled with Asian but whites routinely do whites, hang out with whites, look and vibe white.  That has to change.

Most white Americans in this country, not all white Americans, but most white Americans I would argue lack empathy for people of color.  That’s why it’s easy to pull a gun and fire and kill a black man without any real remorse.  That’s why when you see pre-incident polling between whites and blacks after a shooting, you get such different answers about—blacks see it as abhorrent, whites see it as, he shouldn’t have been—he should have stayed still.  They don’t see this guy as a human.  They don’t.

Janan [Graham-Russell] talked about it in the meeting.  I was trying to get that when Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, he said in his statement, he looked like a demon.  Blacks have a long history of being caricatured, objectified like that, demonized like that.  So if you don’t see people as human, it’s easy to cast them off.  Until that changes in white America, we’re going to continue to talk about this.

What do you think of Smith’s characterizations?


Overcoming “Nice” Racism