What is the Cost of Racism?

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

Over at Resist Racism, there are two excellent posts up discussing the damage racism does to white people.

The first talks about a loss of empathy:

I often think that one way racism does serious damage to white people is by stripping them of their empathy. Privilege has long taught them that white is right. White people are given constant, regular reinforcement that their opinions are superior. They receive validation for their viewpoints. And they typically live in environments in which they do not have to pay any attention to people of color.

Subsequently, when people of color talk about racism, white people are quick to issue denials. Not only do they deny that the opinions or feelings of other people are valid, but they deny even the right to have those opinions. Look at some of the comments people made after Miley Cyrus’ racist “slant-eye” gesture. Remember the one about the rabbits?

    What about kids who hold up their fingers and do bunny ears in photos? Should rabbits start holding town meetings to cry racism??

Translation: Asian Americans complaining about racism is as ridiculous as if rabbits began to talk. In other words, Asian Americans are not fully equal. They are being equated with rabbits. And who would imagine that rabbits might dare to bring up racism?

The second discusses critical thinking skills:

Another way that racism harms white people is by denying them the ability to develop their critical thinking. This is due in part to the constant, regular reinforcement that white is right. White people are raised in an environment in which they are regularly assured of their superiority. Their experts are white, like them. And they often live in segregation, thus denying them the opportunity to be exposed to other viewpoints.

What happens in a culture of white supremacy? White people assume that they are the experts. Even in the absence of any history, education or knowledge.

The most blatant example of this is when a white person (typically a white man) is pontificating about a subject and is challenged when a person of color expresses an opinion. The white person will assume that the person of color knows nothing about the subject and will strive to “correct” him or her. I’ve had this happen when a white person who was not in my field was speaking with authority about something in my field. They never assume that you might actually be knowledgeable on the subject, nor do they assume that you might have professional credentials. (I’d also note that this is a very common experience on the part of people of color. And I recently heard a anecdote about this happening to a writer of color with a white man who was discussing her book. Only he didn’t know she had written it.)

It does not cross their minds. This is racism.

Go check them both out. Just make sure you read “We’ve heard it before” and “Racism 101” before commenting.