Powerful essay from Jim Wallis on Time.com.
To my white brothers and sisters: you can’t continue to say you are not racist when you continue to accept and support systems that are.
Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
One of the things I’ve wondered, as I watch more and more black people leave newsrooms (getting pushed out because of racism, shoved to the side and then fired, being laid off, effectively marginalized or disrespected and then canned) is this: What do white male journalists think?
I single out white men because they
run ish overwhelmingly hold the majority of the key, decision-making roles in most newsrooms. Don’t believe me, check this out.
If I were in, say, a 5K and I took first place only to realize that a good number of runners weren’t allowed to register, my victory would feel hollow. How could I say I was number 1 when the game was rigged?
How does it feel to know that whatever success you have is based, at least in part, on racist systems that mean people of color don’t get to compete with you?
I haven’t gotten the nerve to ask any white male journalists I know yet – maybe because I’m afraid that maybe they haven’t noticed that no people of color (and certainly not black women) get the opportunities they do. Or maybe they’ve noticed and don’t care. Or maybe they think (albeit probably unconsciously) that black folks aren’t qualified anyway, so they should be glad to stay in the newsrooms as long as they do.
Jim Wallis’ essay resonates with me because the silence of white men – in whatever industry (I focus on journalism because that’s what I know) – is to be complicit. And it hurts. These are your colleagues, your Facebook friends – but they don’t challenge the system that sets them up to score and time and time again, leaving black and brown people behind.
This is particularly acute in Memphis, which is over 60 percent black. The MSA is more than 50 percent black. And all things being equal, newsrooms would look like that. Local TV, from what I see, does a good job on the anchor desk – I don’t know what the picture looks like inside the newsroom.
But a survey of local and national print newsrooms – not so much. And I can see it in other industries too; there was a full-page ad for a high-profile real estate company in a local magazine I read with row after row of mug shots (head shots?) of the Realtors. Probably 40 photos – not one was of a black face.
Do the executives at that firm look at that photo and say: Wow. How did this happen? We don’t want this – what specific steps are we going to take today to correct the systems and processes that produced this?
Do they understand that the message that they’re sending is that there is no place for people of color here?
Maybe some white males are agitating in industries where white men almost exclusively call the shots – but what they’re doing isn’t working. (Witness the unbearable whiteness of Silicon Valley.)
On one hand, it makes sense for white men to support a system that advantages you and disadvantages others. But if they believe in abundance, if success is not a zero-sum game, then ignoring workplace bias is mean-spirited. Immoral, even.
If you’re a white man and you’re not part of the solution to fixing racism in your workplace, you’re part of the problem. I won’t go so far to as to call you racist but… You’re in the same area code.