To the left is a picture from my Facebook feed (Cook-Snell, 2018). My mother is standing next to a member from my local church. Both women are in their 80s and have experienced a rich and full life. The caption I gave the picture in my post is “wisdom personified”. I can only imagine the experiences both women have had, to include gender discrimination, separate but equal segregation, and the civil rights movement. But clearly and instinctively we know that each experienced separate but equal in vastly different contexts.
How does this become important in the discussion on white fragility? I grew up in a family that taught me not to judge based on what I now call the colorblind fallacy. As DiAngelo (2018) observes, “A racism-free upbringing is not possible, because racism is a social system embedded in the culture of and its institutions”. Research supports this observation (Smith & Ross, 2006). Smith and Ross (2006) examined to what extent the beliefs of parents shaped the beliefs of their children. The participants in the study were undergraduate students, who we could now assume, had come to adopt some of their own beliefs that may or may not be the same as their family. The researchers found there to be a slight correlation between the belief of the mother and that of the child.
While my mother grew up in Alabama in a lower-class family, she still grew up white. She grew up in an error when black people were still referred to as colored people. When we would visit, as a child I still heard the label colored from my aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My uncles also made frequent use of the “n” word. I cringed then and I still cringe now because instinct told me they were really saying colored people were good, but not equal, and “n” people were bad, and not to be trusted. It was ok to associated with “the colored” but “the n”. Today, fewer of these relatives are living but of those that are, the only thing change is colored to black. The rest remains the same.
After reading DiAngelo (2018), now I have a moral dilemma, what do I say to the seniors in my family when the talk starts again, and it invariable will, so aptly illustrated in the picture to the right (Onsizzle.com, n.d.)?
Cook-Snell, B. (2019, October 28). Wisdom personified [Image attached] [Status update] Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/brett.cook.104
Diangelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.
Onsizzle.com. (n.d.) [Photograph]. https://pics.me.me/my-grandpa-racist-jokes-tsof-my-theres-family-during-thanksgiving-dinner-37696436.png
Smith, S., & Ross, L. (2006). Environmental and family associations With racism 1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(11), 2750-2765. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0021-9029.2006.00126.x
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