Letter to the Editor: More discourse, education on racism needed, 'not less'

Kent Weeklies

Growing up white in Hudson in the 1980s and 1990s, I had limited practical knowledge of racism and racial issues. Only after moving to environments with greater diversity (and greater racism) did I come to know these issues more fully. Including my own privilege – one I can’t practically refuse.

Did this privilege afford me preferential treatment in college admissions or employment? Likely yes, given the milieu then (and now). How about when I opened a bank account, visited an open house, or applied for a mortgage? Or when I was pitching venture capitalists for my startup? That time I was stranded and got a mechanic to open his garage to fix my jalopy? 

I’m certain that in many of these cases, the attitudes if not the outcome would have differed had I not been white. Not that the other parties were “racist” (except the mechanic, who was venomously so). Rather, I suspect they felt they were “color blind”, a nice little phrase that suffers the same faux logic (and dog whistle signaling) as “All Lives Matter”.

Here’s the thing: as long as systems and patterns of entrenched racism exist, “color blind” is at best a willfully ignorant defense that does nothing to correct these problems… a not-so-sly endorsement of the status quo from those whom it benefits most.

My parents didn’t teach me to be color blind, and my wife and I don’t teach that to our children (they are mixed-race, so it’s kind of hard to avoid).  Rather, we teach them to be aware of skin color and race, and to understand why using those as judgement criteria is patently ludicrous. We teach them to recognize social pressures that favor race-based privilege. And we teach them to have the courage and awareness to effect change, whether in a simple one-on-one interaction or broader feedback, reform, and education.

Right now, America needs more discourse and education and empathy on racism, not less. Not just for the sake of MLK’s dream, but for the sake of the American dream.

Dan Stevenson, Taipei, Taiwan