The Black White Disconnect

 

There is a major disconnect between the realities of black and white Americans; like East and West Berlin there is a brick wall that separates them. White American’s have the ability to live life without any regard to the reality those on the other side of the wall are experiencing. On their side of the wall, they can avoid engaging in a national conversation about race, preferring to live comfortably being unaffected by racism. Black and white Americans do not share the same reality when it comes to racial issues in the United States, which makes healing racial wounds a difficult process.

The mindset many white Americans have towards race in America often leaves me perturbed. Many of them cling to the belief that we are living in a post-racial era, because we have a black president, and because overt racism is less socially acceptable. To them, there is no racist present, only a racist past. They are far too quick to put a band-aid over the gaping racial wound that has barely begun to heal. In a Pew research center survey, a great deal of whites said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves. [1]

Contrary to the misguided beliefs of those individuals, racial issues do deserve attention, not swift avoidance. In the US racial wounds have not healed and systemic racism persists. America cannot be post-racial when we now have a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. [2] America cannot be post-racial when mass incarceration has stolen a generation of black men. America cannot be post-racial when the school-to-prison pipeline in Mississippi arrested and sentenced black students for infractions as small as wearing the wrong color socks. [3]

The Black White Disconnect became more clear to me when I noticed that on the rare occasion that white Americans engage in race discussions, they almost always make insensitive remarks that show no regard to racial suffering. I was confused as to why white Americans seemed to be incapable of empathizing with black people, but through research I found clarity. Marc Lamont Hill an academic journalist posed a very relevant question in response to the lack of outrage shown by white people about the shooting deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Renisha Mcbride. He asked, “Why is it so difficult for white Americans, or the nation as a whole, to internalize black pain?” [4]

The answer to this question goes beyond the fact that many white Americans cling to racist notions that prevent them from understanding the black struggle. The answer goes beyond politics and lies in the innate racism of the human brain. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that white people’s neuron system fired less when viewing people of color performing actions, which indicates an emotional disconnect when thinking about people of color. [5] This research clearly answers why many white people remain unaffected by the harsh reality Black American’s face. The reason racism has become their intrinsic mindset is because of they have been conditioned and brought up in a racist society. Racism nevertheless is a learned way of thinking and if you can learn it you also can unlearn it.

Finally, the Black White Disconnect can be displayed in the widely held belief by white Americans that they can be on the receiving end of racism. A 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism. [6] Many claim that they have been victims of what is called “reverse racism.” Now, I am not trying to invalidate the experiences of white people, but the reality is that reverse racism is an illegitimate concept. Getting your feelings hurt by someone saying they hate white people does not compare to the systemic racism people of color experience. Racism is a multi-faceted system of oppression that white people created and benefit from.

A Huffington Post article discusses the 5 major powers structures one will encounter in their life; employment, housing, finances, law enforcement, and education. The article then poses a series of questions for white people who believe they are affected by racism. They are as follows: Have you ever been interviewed by a black person for a job? More than once? Have you ever sought financial advice for a home/business loan from a black person? Have you ever sought the help of a black real estate agent in finding a home? Have you ever been confronted by a black officer, black judge, or been represented by a black lawyer? Have you ever had a black teacher or professor? If yes, more than three? More than five? [7]

The relevance of those questions lies in the fact that the people who hold those positions of power in American society are disproportionately white. There are vast disparities and systemic failures that lead to the inequality people of color face. Which is why we see studies that show that teachers of minorities expect them to achieve less than their white counterparts and that this influences their overall potential for success. We see that schools are more segregated than ever before. We see that the housing market excludes black families implicitly. And we see that law enforcement unfairly targets minorities and that blacks receive harsher sentences than their white counterparts. [7] Institutionalized racism in America is a reality that white people simply do not experience. It’s a reality that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

It’s difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand the harsh reality they face. But the task is not impossible, all it takes is a willingness. White America needs to open their eyes and ears to the racial disparities in our country. They must come to terms with our country’s history of racism that still exists in new and evolving forms. The longer we wait to heal racial wounds, the more difficult it will be to tear down the brick wall that separates the two realities, and forges the Black White Disconnect.

References

[1] “Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press RSS. N.p., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 July 2015.

[2] Kristof, Nicholas. “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 July 2015.

[3] Rankin, Lauren. “Colorblindness Is the New Racism.” Policy Mic. N.p., 22 July 2013. Web. 13 June 2015.

[4] “The Real Reasons Many White People Can’t Empathize With Ferguson, Racial Disparities, or Black Suffering.” The Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015. Website

[5] Kemick, April. “Human Brain Recognizes and Reacts to Race, UTSC Researchers Discover.” University of Toronto Scarborough. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.

[6] Norton, Michael I., and Samuel R. Sommers. Harvard Business School and Tufts University Department of Psychology, n.d. Web.

[7] Dillingham, Dain. “5 Questions for Anyone Who Thinks They Are a Victim of ‘Reverse Racism'” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.

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One thought on “The Black White Disconnect

  1. I agree with this article. I believe that it is almost impossible for white American to truly understand and sympathize with Black America. However, they are capable of sympathizing with victims of the Holocaust, WHY?

    Like

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