Today, January 21, 2013 is the day that the United States has deemed to remember the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We remember him in recognition of his work to end – well to challenge – racism within the United States of America. That is a work in progress for sure. In lots of places you will find his “I have a dream” speech. It is an important speech. You should go read it.
Here, today, I wanted to share with you two of my favorites for thinking about and challenging racism. One is a poem by Pat Parker… it names and plays with stereotypes that so many white people hold about people of color. It plays with the struggles white people manufacture when we finally try to get over ourselves and open to developing relationships with people of color – as if that is the great gift all people of color have been waiting for all their lives (maybe, just maybe no so much!).
The second excerpt is the White Privilege Inventory that has been developed from Peggy McIntosh’s essay on Unpacking White Privilege. … Because so many white people still think it is an even playing field.
So, read the poem, please. Think about it with an open heart. … of course she’s angry. And she is also laughing, I think. Then fill in the inventory. Just how many privileges do you enjoy? And, then … take one little step outside of your comfort zone. Do some little thing to make this world of ours a bit more fair, a bit more respectful of the dignity of ALL sentient beings, a bit more compassionate?
Pat Parker poem – ” For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend”?
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
You should be able to dig Aretha,
but don’t play her every time i come over.
And if you decide to play Beethoven–don’t tell
me his life story. They made us take music
Eat soul food if you like it, but don’t expect me
to locate your restaurants
or cook it for you.
And if some Black person insults you,
mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,
rips your house, or is just being an ***–
please, do not apologize to me
for wanting to do them bodily harm.
It makes me wonder if you’re foolish.
And even if you really believe Blacks are better
lovers than whites–don’t tell me. I start thinking
of charging stud fees.
In other words, if you really want to be my
friend–don’t make a labor of it. I’m lazy.
Score 5 if statement is always true for you
Score 3 if the statement is sometimes true for you
Score 0 if the statement is seldom true for you
Because of my race or color …
1. _____ I can be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. _____ If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area in which I would want to live and which I can afford.
3. _____ I can turn on the television or open the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented.
4. _____ When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that my people made it what it is.
5. _____ I can be sure that curricular materials will testify to the existence of my race.
6. _____ I can go into most supermarkets and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions.
7. _____ I can go into any hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
8. _____ Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
9. _____ I can swear, dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, poverty or illiteracy of my race.
10. _____ I can do well in challenging situations without being called a credit to my race.
11. _____ I am never asked to speak for people of my race.
12. _____ I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
13. _____ I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
14. _____ I can conveniently buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards and children’s magazines featuring people of my race
15. _____ If a traffic cop pulls me over, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
16. _____ I can go home from most meetings of the organizations I belong to feeling tied in rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, feared, or hated.
17. _____ I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
18. _____ I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
19. _____ I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
20. _____ If my week or year is going badly, I need not wonder if each negative episode or situation has racial overtones.
21. _____ I can comfortably avoid, ignore or minimize the impact of racism on my life.
22. _____ I can speak in public to a powerful group without putting my race on trial.
23. _____ I can choose blemish cover bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
adapted from Peggy McIntosh “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”