“The personhood of Whites … the burden of their bias”
Thinking about Race (June 2021)
“White people in America tend to assume, at a deep level, that America’s economic, governmental and legal systems are roughly fair. This, after all, is how people such as me generally experience them. And this allows for facile, sometimes unconscious, judgments. Because American systems seem fair, it must be individuals’ fault when they are poor, powerless or imprisoned.
“It is a failure of imagination that leads to the persistence of injustice. People for whom the system works have a hard time understanding the lasting, disastrous economic consequences of centuries of stolen labor, or the continuing legacy of disenfranchisement and voter suppression, or the fear generated by policing that targets and dehumanizes minorities.
“Focusing on such systemic injustice is not the recent result of ‘wokeness.’ It is unavoidable when a country’s treatment of some groups is dramatically at odds with its national ideals.
“So the accusation of systemic injustice is hardly new. But the reaction of civil rights leaders such as King was remarkable. Rather than judging America beyond hope, they loved it for what it might someday become: a multiracial society of equal justice and opportunity. Opposing racism was not only a method to confront injustice; it was also a way to help reclaim the personhood of Whites, who could finally lay down the burden of their bias.”
This column is prepared by the BYM Working Group on Racism (WGR) and sent to the designated liaisons at each Monthly and Preparative Meeting for publication in their newsletter or other means of dissemination. The WGR meets most months on the first Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, at various Meetings. If you would like to attend, on a regular or a drop-in basis, contact clerk David Etheridge.