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Starting Learning on the Basis of Race


As a fellow white male, I can certainly empathize with Frank Hotchkiss’s apparent outrage at having the possibility that he might be in some way a racist pointed out to him. This is often the first line of defense when the difficult topic comes up, which helps to ensure that it never comes up, the intended outcome of our outrage. Personally, however, I am aware that in reality the arrow of oppression does not point toward white folk like Frank and me, and have decided to embark an investigation into my own racism, both by myself and with the help of facilitators. It is not necessary for me, and Nick and Jerry and whomever, to be running around in white robes burning crosses and lynching people to merit being called “racist” — it’s simply not a binary activity and, like most natural phenomena, spans a large spectrum.

Our fragility, however, does serve to cement racism into the fabric of our society. The little things that Frank and I undoubtedly engage in, and things that we are likely oblivious to, enable the big things. For this reason I applaud this Just Communities school program.

I would say to Justice Roberts that it’s not at all about stopping discrimination on the basis of race, as race is actually the child of racism, not the father. What’s necessary is for the dominant race to understand ourselves. I do hope Frank will do a little work and come to appreciate this. There are plenty of resources out there, including this school program, thankfully. We need each other.

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