“Racism is based on the systematic oppression of people.”
Can whites in the United States ever really experience racism? Recently, Steve Doocy, Sean Hannity, and other talking heads on Fox News have been screaming about reverse racism. Since Ferguson, conservative activists, lawmakers, presidential candidates, and their supporters have been pushing the #AllLivesMatter meme. And there’s been no shortage of people on the right arguing that the very concept of white privilege is racist. With those efforts to dismiss or diminish the systemic violence and racism faced by African-Americans as background, the importance of this recent student-teacher interaction captured on YouTube can’t be overstated.
In the video below, the teacher’s comments aren’t completely clear, but he’s discussing how racism affects whites. Then one of his students puts the entire issue in perspective. “Racism is based on the systematic oppression of people. White people have never suffered that,” the student says. “Yeah, you’ve tried to say it’s possible. Yeah, in the future it's possible to like have some form of systematic oppression of white people. But it’s never happened.”
The student goes on to show how all too often when whites discuss the issue of race they do so without taking in the historical context of the issue. “You saying it’s not going to be up for argument—it’s kind of like you, as a white man, saying what is and what is not racist,” she said. “That’s what’s been happening throughout the centuries. For you to tell me that, it doesn’t make me believe you, because that’s what’s been fed to us for so long.”
Although we can’t be sure what the teacher was actually telling his students about racism, what’s evident is that in his classroom, the teacher has fostered a positive place where students and educators can openly discuss the issue. This type of honest discussion between students and teachers is one tiny step toward a better understanding of the complex issue of race in America.
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