What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless…

What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless…


Dr. DiAngelo. Let’s give her a warm welcome. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Well, this is one
of the warmer crowds I’ve been in front
of in a long time. And actually, that’s going
to cause me to relax, and then I’m going to be even
more provocative than I usually am. [HOOTS] But Jody stole my thunder,
there, a little bit. I usually start by pointing
your attention to the fact that I’m white and asking
you to actually look at me and think about it
for just a minute. And part of what it
means to be white is that goes against all
my conditioning and all my socialization. Because I was taught that I
really didn’t have a race. I was just the universal human. Race is what they had. And certainly, I was
taught not to be drawing people’s attention to it. So how did I come to
be standing in front of groups of people saying,
look at me, I’m white, and that has meaning? Well, for me, it started when
I got a job as a diversity trainer in the early ’90s. And I was going to go into the
workplace in interracial teams and lead discussions
on race and racism. And when I applied for
that job, I sincerely thought that my qualifications
were that I shopped at PCC, I’m a vegetarian, I went to
Evergreen, and I drive a Prius. So we didn’t actually
have Priuses in the ’90s, but I hope you get my point. I really thought that what this
was about was open-mindedness. And that, since I was clearly
open-minded, I was good to go, and I was qualified. And it was just about getting
other people to be open-minded. And I was in for the
most profound learning of my entire life
on every level. And one is to
realize in no way was I qualified to be
leading conversations on arguably the most emotionally
and politically charged issue since the
founding of our country. And this is also
part of what it means to be white is that I could
get to that point in my life with no really good information
and understanding of racism and still see myself as kind
of done with my learning and able to lead other people. And I’m sure some of you
have seen that dynamic in other white folks. So I spent a good five
years, for a living, going into primarily
white workplaces and trying to have
these conversations. And aside from not really
being qualified to do it, I also was unprepared
for the depth of hostility, incredible
hostility in primarily all white spaces,
employed white people, who were just really angry about
having the conversation at all. And so over the years, I
just got better and better at figuring out what it means
to be white in a society that professes that it means
nothing and yet is profoundly separate and unequal by race. And so I wanted to apply that
experience to impact people on a larger level. And I went on and got my
Ph.D. in whiteness studies. Anybody ever hear of
whiteness studies? Does that sound kind of weird? For decades, if
not the millennium, when white people studied
race, we studied them. What’s with them? Why do they have their
problems, et cetera? And for just as long,
people of color looked at us and said, why don’t
you look at yourselves? You are our problem. And eventually, early
’80s, ’90s, white academics took up that call and
began to put the lens on us and the relationship between us. And that field is called
whiteness studies. So when I started,
people literally would be pounding their fists
on the table and all of this. It doesn’t look like
that anymore for me. So I want to talk about
what new racism looks like. How is it that individually
most white people feel like they are exempt from
any racist conditioning, and yet we have so
much racial inequity? Prior to the civil
rights movement, it was pretty socially
acceptable for white people to just come out and say
that, yeah, we’re superior. That’s no longer as
acceptable in public spheres, although, if you listen
to political debates, I’m starting to question that. But it looks like this. I just left the position as
a professor of education. So I was in a college of
education that was 98% white. So 98% white school producing
our future teachers. We were located 10 miles from
a city that was 57% black and Latino, Springfield, Mass. And I would, at the
first day of class, have my students take
out a piece of paper and write an
anonymous essay based on a couple key questions. But before I mentioned
that, I would just say, hi, I’m your professor
and then immediately have them take the paper out. And the reason is I
was trying to minimize my influence on them beyond
the reality of my body. So I want to take a moment just
to say that the way you hear me today will be influenced by
the fact that I’m in this body, whether you’re
aware of it or not. Overall, white people can
hear this message from me much better than they
can from people of color. And I want to acknowledge
that the vast majority of what I have come to understand
about how racism works has come from people
of color, who’ve been saying what I’m saying
for decades but can’t be heard. And so that’s what I call
the master’s tools dilemma. Audre Lorde was a poet, African
American poet and activist, educator. And she had this phrase,
the master’s tools will never dismantle
the master’s house. And what she meant is how
do challenge a system using the tools within the system? So that’s a dilemma for me, too. As I stand up here as the
authority, to a degree, on whiteness, I am
necessarily reinforcing the centrality of
the white voice and the white perspective. And trust me, I go
home at night and toss and turn over that dilemma. At the same time,
because I can be heard, I’m going to use my voice. And when I feel like
giving up, I say, perfect, you’ll really be white then. Don’t talk about race. And that will perfectly
protect your position. So I just want to acknowledge
that kind of both/and nature of this work, that
simultaneously we’re reinforcing racism as
we seek to challenge it. And I also want to acknowledge
all those incredibly patient and brilliant
mentors of color that didn’t give up on me so that
I am kind of at the place that I am today. So what do my students’
essays look like? I ask them three questions. How racial diverse were your
neighborhoods and schools? What messages have you
gotten across your lifespan about race? And what are some of the ways
your race has shaped your life? So keep in mind,
98% white classes. I rarely, actually ever
had a student of color, and we’re 10 miles from a city
that’s 57% black and Latino. And what I’m going
to show you is representative of the hundreds
of these essays, in breadth, in depth. My neighborhood growing up was
not racially diverse at all. Every family in my neighborhood
was also Caucasian. Throughout my time in school,
I have been continually taught that skin does not matter. These are juniors and
seniors in college, who are going to
forth to be teachers, and this is the
extent of what they can be bothered to
write about the most profound and perennial,
I think, issue since the founding
of our country. And I’m hoping that you
recognize some of this. If you’re white, you might
recognize it in yourself. If you’re a person
of color or white and try to talk to other people,
you recognize this narrative. It may be a little more bald. But it is the way
we do race today. And I see a major contradiction
in these three sentences. Do you guys see
that contradiction? How can we be taught that race
has no meaning in segregation? I think that that’s
the contradiction. And yet, I’ve never met
anyone without an opinion on race and racism. Have you? If you’re not sure, bring it
up at your next family dinner and then go beyond
the first round of meaningless platitudes. Go to the next round. Ask just one more
follow-up question and watch what happens. And if you’re
hesitant to do that, because you don’t want
to ruin the dinner, that should tell you. We’ve got a lot of feelings
about this thing that has no meaning. And so I’m going to say maybe
my first provocative thing. If you are white, of course
you have an opinion on race. And I don’t know you. And I don’t know
your life experience. I don’t know who
is in your life. I don’t know where you traveled. I don’t know what you’ve read. And I can assume
that you’ve gained your opinions from all of those
things across your lifespan. And yet, if you have not devoted
sustained, ongoing, continual education and practice
on this topic, your opinions are necessarily
superficial and uninformed. Just going to say it. How can I say that
not knowing you? Because nothing in
dominant society gives us the information we need
to have a complex and nuanced understanding of
this topic coupled with our investment in it. So please hold your opinions
lightly and with humility and just let me stretch you. No matter where you
are, I can get you in another place, a little bit. Now people of color, you
might be thinking, OK, so she’s a white person. Focus on white people,
which is what I’m doing. How can this be valuable
for people of color? Well, I’m going
to admit to things that white people rarely, if
ever, will name and admit to. So that can help with
the crazy making. And you’ve got to
navigate this water, too. You got to deal with us,
because we are the gatekeepers. You look like a really
diverse student body, but I’m confident your
faculty administration isn’t. We are the gatekeepers. We are who you are going to
be in front off when you go to apply for jobs, et cetera. You got to us. So this can be useful
to figure out what is going on with those people. And because nothing in society
gives anybody good information, you have to kind of know my
reality as well as your own. But still, there’s so much
denial and so much like, no, if you have a problem around
this, this is your problem. So this can be really useful
for students of color, too. Where are we? So we have to start with
some shared definitions, because these words, prejudice,
discrimination, and racism, get used interchangeably
in our society. And right there, we’re
talking at cross-ends. So prejudice is prejudgment. We get it from everything. It goes well beyond
whatever your parents may have taught you or told to you. We get it from every source. We get it across our lifespan. Everybody has prejudice
about other groups of people to which they don’t belong. It is not humanly possible
not to have prejudice. Human objectivity
does not exist. I don’t care what your science
professors might tell you. There is no human objectivity. You can only make
sense of the world through the cultural
framework you were conditioned to make sense of it through. And then discrimination is
when we act on our prejudice. And we all do it. I was taught that
prejudice was hatred, and discrimination was
violence and slurs and things like that, which is why
I didn’t relate to it. But if it can be much
more subtle than that. But it’s always
manifests, because the way you see the world drives the
way you respond to the world. And it can be just
lack of interest, comfort with segregation. There are many subtle ways. I would just direct your
attention to implicit bias. I’m really grateful that we now
understand that most bias is actually not conscious. But there’s no way we could
miss absorbing these messages. Because we all kind of
navigate the same water. A great example is
next time you’re go into Target or Walmart,
go through the toy aisles and tell me if there aren’t
any collectively sent gender messages out there. I can tell my daughter
all kinds of things, but the collective socialization
is very, very powerful. We’re all getting it. But then when we get
to the oppression, we take a group’s
collective prejudice, and we back it by
legal authority and institutional control. And that transforms it. And it moves it beyond
individual actors and into a system
that is embedded in the fabric of our
society, because this group has built the society. So there, prejudice is
built into the fabric. So it gets embedded
in all institutions and also cultural definitions of
what’s real, what’s beautiful, what’s valuable, what’s normal,
whose story is testified to, whose story is not, whose norms
are others measured through. And of course, we’ll
always fall short. So I want to give you
two illustrations. This is foundational. If we can’t grasp the difference
between personal prejudice and discrimination and
systems of oppression, we’re not going
to understand how racism is able to
flourish today, despite individual
people believing that they’re against it. So I want to start
with women’s suffrage. So when did women get the
right to vote in the US? Does anybody know? 1930. 1920. Who gave it to us? Men. You can say it. I didn’t just
say– that’s right. Was there any other way,
outside of a violent and bloody revolution– which
I’m not publicly advocating– for
women to get the right to vote except for
men to give it to us? No. Why not? Because we literally
were not seated in the seats of
institutional power. We couldn’t grant ourselves
the right to vote. That’s the difference. A woman could be prejudiced
towards a man, discriminate against a man. I like to say, a woman can
make a man’s life miserable. I have been accused of this
at least twice in my life, and it’s 2016. But women, as a group, couldn’t
oppress men or deny them the right to vote. And if we don’t acknowledge
that difference, we just take power
off the table. It’s not all the same. A woman’s prejudice
against a man at that time is not the same. And keep in mind that
it wasn’t just the House the Senate that denied
women the right to vote and that it was up to. Every institution
worked together, every male-dominated
institution. So the clergy literally
preached from the pulpit that it was God’s will
that women not vote. And by the way, God’s will is
a hard one to challenge, right? Psychiatrists,
male-dominated psychiatrists wrote the studies
that said women are inherently irrational. The medical doctors wrote
the studies that said, if women use their brains, the
blood will leave the uterus, go upward, and the babies
won’t come out as well. This is literally in the books. And ultimately, the military,
if women rose up in the street, the military could
come and quash that. You see that difference? That’s really, really key. So when we’re talking
about oppression, we’re talking about
institutional power. And oppression comes
in different forms. It’s always about kind of
two groups that are set up in a binary of either/or. And then one controls the power. So that one was one
from patriarchy. And by the way, today,
if men, as a group, wanted to take aware
right to vote, could they? No. Yeah. No. This is another way
that oppression works. It is so normalized
and taken for granted that it’s really hard to see. So 80 to 83% of the
House and Senate is male. The presidency has
always been 100% male. The economic Fortune
500 CEOs are 98% male. I could go on. They could if they wanted to,
which is another example of how oppression works. It’s deeply historic,
embedded, taken for granted. It’s not fluid. And it doesn’t change over time. Patriarchy didn’t end in 1920. And if Hillary gets
the presidency, I’m confident patriarchy
will not end on that day. So that’s from sexism. Let’s look at one from racism. So Jackie Robinson,
what do we know? In a nutshell, who’s
Jackie Robinson? [INAUDIBLE] Baseball player. So he is the first
African American to play major league baseball. Jackie Robinson
broke the color line. You’ve all heard that narrative. And you always need to listen
to the story being told, who tells it, and who it serves. So when we put this as
Jackie Robinson is our hero, he did it. He did it. He broke the color line. It reinforces this idea
of an exceptional actor, who finally had what it took. And I get this image
of like a ticker-tape. And he’s running,
and he’s running. And he finally busts through it. Yeah! Now what if the
story went like this. Jackie Robinson,
first African American that whites allowed
to play baseball. That is actually the story. Jackie Robinson could not
play major league baseball if we didn’t allow it. Walk out on the field, police
are going to come take you off. We wrote the policies
that denied him. We changed the policies
that granted him access. That’s the difference. And he might have some
attitude towards white people. I’m pretty sure he did and does. But his group doesn’t
hold institutional power. So this came out. Apparently August 26 was
the anniversary of suffrage. I guess it was,
August 26, in 1920. And you know how
Facebook will put out these like happy 4th of
July, happy this, happy that? They sent this out. And then somebody did this. And it came out a little
bit when I asked you who gave us the right to vote. So which women got the
right to vote in 1920? White. And that’s also how
oppression works. The dominant group’s
experience stands in as everyone’s experience. There’s some universal woman’s
experience, which I would say, no, there is not. So while we were
oppressed as women, we were elevated as white women. We do this on the 4th of July. We take all this for granted. What are we celebrating
on the 4th of July? [INAUDIBLE] Freedom. What’s the date attached
to the 4th of July? 1776. 1776. Yeah, what was going on then? But the whole country
is just celebrating. Again, always whose story? So racism is a
form of oppression. It is a system operating
on multiple levels. And it works to ensure
an unequal distribution of everything
between white people, as a group, and people
of color, as a group, with whites the
beneficiaries of that system. It has nothing to do–
well, it’s connected to, but it is not dependent
on individual actors. It is going to reproduce itself,
because the system is set up to do that. So I’m going to
show that to you. Marilyn Frye is a scholar that
has a metaphor of a bird cage, that oppression is
like a birdcage. If you walk right
up to that cage and put your face
right against that, you’re going to get an
unobstructed view of the bird. Because you’ve got a very
micro or myopic view, like putting your eye
in a hole in a fence. And you’re going to
say, what’s the problem? The little doors open. Why doesn’t the
bird just fly away? Why don’t they just do
x, y, and z, and then they won’t have their problems. But if you step back, you begin
to see these bars and then these bars and then these bars. When you take a
macro view, you begin to see this
interlocking network, that, while it won’t make
it impossible for that bird to fly away, will
make it very unlikely. And we can predict that it
won’t, that it certainly will have many, many more barriers. So what are some of those? Our institutions, our
ideology, isolation, rewards for conformity,
our culture, internalized oppression,
microaggressions, the constant threat of
violence, our history, the burden of
representation, invisibility, and unacknowledged historical
trauma, those are just a few. And anyone who’s one of
the few people of color in an organization understands
the burden of representation, isolation, the
pressure– if you keep white folks comfortable
around race, you’ll get further–
all of this weight that I do not hold, carry,
or have to navigate. So I hope you see
what I’m doing here. I’m trying to challenge
this dominant idea that racism is just whether
or not I tell racist jokes. And I don’t tell
them, so therefore. Well this is my metaphor. Because as I listen to white
folks, day in and day out, respond in conversations
about race, I got this image of
a pier or a dock. Because, for me, that signifies
how superficial and surface these narratives are. So let’s see if you
recognize any of these. I was taught to treat
everyone the same. Anybody ever hear that one? [INAUDIBLE] No, you weren’t. I’m going to say it again. No, you weren’t. You may have been told that. You cannot teach human beings
to treat everyone the same. We don’t treat
everyone the same. And we certainly do not want
to in this particular society, because we need to understand
what does that person need based on this backdrop. I see people as individuals. I don’t care if you’re
pink, purple, yellow, or polka-dotted. Anybody ever hear that one? Yes. If that’s in your vocabulary,
please drop it and never use it again. It’s incredibly demeaning. People don’t come in
pinks and purples. Let’s just get real. Racism is real. Let’s talk about it. What else do we have? Racism is in the past. Race doesn’t have any meaning. Everyone struggles. My parents weren’t racist,
that’s why I’m not racist. Or my parents were racist,
that’s why I’m not racist. It doesn’t really
matter what comes in front, what comes behind
must always be, I’m not racist. So and so just
happened to be black. It has nothing to
do with anything, although I do need
to let you know that. And now I’m going to tell
you about a conflict we had and insist that race
had nothing to do with it. I’d actually also drop
that from my vocabulary. I would drop, regardless of
race or just happened to be. While I might not
know exactly what race had to do with that
conflict or interchange, it had something to do with it. Because there’s no way
you can take that out, anymore than you can
take gender and how it’s operating cross-relationships. Oh, I got to do this one. I was in the military. I have actually
gone back and forth with white people who insist
that the reason they’re not racist is because they
were in the military. And while I might
give them, all right, you’re all wearing green. That’s usually what they
say, we’re all wearing green. I’ll give you that. But first of all, who gets
recruited into the military? What kind of
strategies are used? I would also say,
who are you killing? And how are you being
trained to kill them? Now, if we’re sophisticated,
we might say those things, but I’ll get us, too. So what do we say? We say stuff like, I work in
a very diverse environment. I have people of
color in my family. So I’m going to ask you. Have any of you– this
one’s popular in Seattle. I live in the most diverse
ZIP code in the United States, 98118, which, by
the way, is Columbia City, and it’s no longer the most
diverse ZIP code in Seattle. But let’s start with
those first two. How many of you,
in a conversation with a white person
about racism, have heard some version
of, I know people of color, I have people of
color in my family? So when a white
person tells you that, they’re giving you evidence. They’re giving you
their evidence for what? In their mind, what are they
giving you their evidence of? [INAUDIBLE] That they’re not racist, right? So if that is my evidence,
how do I define racism? So this is actually
been really useful for me to kind of
go under the surface and think, OK, then
if I could figure out how they’re defining racism,
then I can speak to them. So I would say they’re defining
racism as conscious dislike. A racist doesn’t like people of
color, therefore they, I guess, couldn’t work three
cubicles down from somebody. Or if they have a person
color in their family, they have love for
this person, they also couldn’t possibly be racist. So they’re defining it
as conscious dislike. And they’re not understanding
the power of implicit bias. If Have you ever
had somebody say, I used to live in New York,
and that’s why I’m not racist? I have actually heard
all of these things. So I guess a racist couldn’t
walk by people of color without losing their
shit, basically. And see, I can walk by
them, and they’re around me. I work here, therefore,
I couldn’t possibly. Let me ask you, how many
of you are in cisgender– do you know what I
mean I say cisgender? If you don’t let, I’ll let your
professors help you with that. Not transgender, OK? So you’re in an opposite
sex relationship. How many of you are in an
opposite sex relationship? So for the women in the
room, you’re with a man. You got a man in your life. And the moment he fell
in love with you, all his sexism disappeared, right? No? How could he have any sexism? He loves you? There’s no gender dynamics
in the relationship? So we see the
ludicrousness of that. But we think that
racism disappears, there’s no racial
dynamics between people if they’re in an
intimate relationship. I used to live in New York. My children are so much open. The problem with this one is we
like to romanticize children, but, by age three or four, all
children know the racial order. This is well-researched. They know the racial order. What’s the racial order? It’s better to be white. They know that. And if you are a
parent of color, you got to work very hard to
instill worth and pride in them in the face of that
relentless message. We don’t like how white
our neighborhood is, but we had to move
here for the schools. This is actually,
I think, another really disingenuous– I think
white people do like how white their neighborhoods are. So we have to go
under the surface and figure out what
is propping this up if we want to address it. Let’s look at these questions. How racially diverse was
your neighborhood growing up and what messages did
you get about race from your neighborhoods? The overall pattern,
across the United States, is that, if you are white,
you most likely grew up in a white neighborhood. I’m going to put it this way. You probably grew
up in segregation. If you were white,
and you did not grow up in racial
segregation, you’re probably urban and
poor or working class. And you probably don’t still
live in those neighborhoods, because upward
mobility takes us away. And we don’t tend to
maintain those relationships. So the vast majority of white
people grow up in segregation. Just because of
time, I will let you think about what
messages are we getting about race in segregation. We can say everybody’s equal,
but the practice of our lives is phenomenally more powerful
than whatever we say. Here’s another question. When’s the first time you had
a teacher of the same race, or races if you’re
multiracial, as you? And how often did that happen? And when’s the
first time you had a teacher of a different race? And how often did that happen? And the vast majority,
pattern across the US, is, if you’re white,
from the time you began, and you can get through
graduate school, without having a
teacher of color. So put another way, if
you’re white, from the time you begin, you are relentlessly
reflected in your teachers and then, of course, your
textbooks and everything else. If you’re a person of
color, with a rare exception for blacks in, say, Atlanta
and certain parts of DC, then the answer to this
question is rarely, if ever, did I look up and see myself
reflected in that person. Now, the teaching force
is upwards of 93% white. It is getting whiter
not less white. And those teachers answer these
questions in the same way, grow up in segregation,
rarely if ever have a teacher of color. So where do we get
our information, then, about people of color? Well, really problematic
sources, right? Media, TV, jokes,
admissions, warnings, right? Where do I get my– I
watch MSNBC Lockdown. I watch Cops I watch
Jerry Springer. So picture, those
are my sources. And now I’m going to go and
socialize everybody’s children. And I’m going to decide who’s
smart and respectful and well-behaved and who deserves
to be punished in what way, and who deserves to go
to special ed, et cetera. And we have the school
to prison pipeline, which, again, it’s not about
individual teachers intentions. It’s about our very deep
socialization that we cannot admit to and that comes
out in our assessments. So I’m going to
show you my image– I like to use images– for this
dynamic of the teaching force. So this is the college
Jeopardy champion playoffs. These are best
and our brightest, certified as highly educated
by our universities. And this is the board at the end
of their grand champion round. And as we can see, there’s
a category not one of them touched. So it was probably the
hardest, I would assume, and they didn’t want to lose. And for me, it would
be astrophysics or chemistry or something. Well, let’s just see. [LAUGHTER] And I don’t know
that I can express what this means in terms of
the ability for white supremacy to continue. And when I say, white supremacy,
whites as central and superior. If you disconnect us from our
history and we do not know our history, we cannot
challenge racism. This is a crisis. Our schools are getting
more segregated. Our teaching force
is getting whiter. So Joe Feagin is
a sociologist that has this concept of
the white racial frame. You can think of it
as those pillars. It’s the framework through which
whites make racial meaning. It functions to position
whites as superior. And it’s passed down and
reinforced across the society. So I’m going to start
showing you some images. I think that’s a great example
of the white racial frame, ideal beauty for the world. You don’t have to read
Vogue magazine for this to affect you. This affects all of us. Anyone who tells me that
advertising doesn’t affect them is telling me they don’t
understand socialization, not to mention the multi-billion
dollar advertising industry. Here’s an ad I got on a Delta
Airlines flight last year. And my initial
response to it was, oh, my god, there’s the racial
hierarchy, right there. So you have your white
women in the front, with red hair, wearing green. You have Asian women in
the middle, wearing yellow. And you have black women,
in the back, wearing brown. So right there, you’ve
got your racial hierarchy. The ad is for a purse. So look at the three
sets of women’s hands. The black women don’t
even have the purse, just this kind of– again, in just
an instant, we’re absorbing. This one, maximize the
performance of your employees. There’s six,
shirtless, black men knelt at the foot
of this white man. And look at the body language. We’re absorbing this. Nothing I’m showing
you stands alone. We can read it
precisely because it connects to the
millions of other images that circulate around us. You know when you’re reading
CNN or Huffington Post or something, and there’s
this constant flashes to go to this story,
go to this story? And I saw one that said,
the most beautiful women in the world. So OK, I got to check this out. Representing South Africa, by
the way, which is 92% black, South Africa is, 8% white. That, to me, is white supremacy. There was not one Asian woman. Asian women are the majority
of women in the world. And in this most beautiful women
in the world, no Asian women. So I think the most powerful
adaptation of racism over time is this good/bad binary. You make racism so bad that
white people cannot tolerate looking at it in themselves. And it’s the root of
virtually all defensiveness you’ve ever gotten from
a white person trying to talk about racism. So let’s fill it in. A racist is ignorant and
bigoted and prejudiced and mean-spirited
and old and Southern, drives a pickup truck. We’ll get some
classism in there. Not racist is
progressive and educated and Northern,
open-minded, et cetera. So keep noticing
how powerful this is in the dominant narrative
about what it means to be complicit with this
system and how fantastically it functions to make it
hard to talk about. So I’m going to use
the example of my life to talk about what
it means to be white. So the first thing is that I was
born into a society in which I belong. I belong at that
faculty meeting. I belong at that church service. I belong at that
block party, dealing with my daughter’s teachers, her
camp counselors, that wedding, day in and day out. And do not ever take for
granted the power of belonging. It’s in my bones. It’s in my muscles. Any space deemed
neutral or normal, I belong as a white person. It’s a fantastic,
psychic freedom. And nothing I’m about to say
can be said by a person of color in this society. Represented in the government. So let’s look at that. I don’t know that there’s a
more powerful image than God. And here’s what I saw,
as a child, looking up. There’s God creating man. There’s Jesus, who, by the
way, was a man of color, and Moses and Mary. Whites are the
norm for humanity. I was trying to think of
how to represent this. So you’ve all seen those things. Here’s a close-up. Even with their skin
off, they’re white. Here’s Adam and Eve,
the first human beings. Constant messages that
it’s better to be white. I’m just going to
say this again. Nobody misses the message,
it’s better to be white. I don’t, on a conscious level,
believe or want that message. It comes at me 24/7. Here’s best hair. We have Halle Berry here. But, of course, her
hair is straightened. This little girl has been
dubbed the most beautiful girl in the world. I have a problem with
that on many levels, but in terms of white supremacy. This is on a science
website right now. What would a scientifically
perfect face look like? Contrasted with what I’m going
to show you next, which ran in Psychology Today, in 2011. This comes through in dating
practices, in pornography. And everybody is affected
by these messages. I was racially affirmed
throughout my childhood. And I’m going to use images
from today’s childhood. I want you to get the water. This has been
exported worldwide. I’ve seen so many little girls
of color with these backpacks. Just, again, that relentless
image of whiteness as ideal. This is Aiyana Jackson. She’s a little girl that was
killed in a police shootout, in her home, in Detroit. But what’s so particularly
poignant about that picture is she posed in front of
those Disney princesses. We’ll get the white–
the boys in here, because childhood
is so gendered. This is the Academy
Board of Governors, who decide the Oscars. These are who write our stories. These are for shape all
of our understandings. And their depiction
of the other, right? Let’s just leave it
at this photo, OK? I have a whole
chapter on this movie. If you are white and you
love a movie about race, that should be a red flag. Because it probably
reinforced a really cherished narrative, which is
usually there’s good whites and there’s bad whites. And we’re the good whites. And I would get rid of that. That’s rooted in the good/bad. This reminded me an
awful lot of that. And, of course,
these are the images. Here’s his community. And then here is– he was
saved by his white family. Can you even see the
brown girls in this? There’s one on each end. Usually, that’s what you get. You’re going to get one on
each end or one to the side. When you do get Latina–
here, in this one, Latina– Devious Maids. Let’s just do Lord of the Rings. I’m going to go fast. 100%, every creature in
Lord of the Rings is white. They’re literally trying
to get to the white city. They’re trying to escape
the dark lord of Mordor. Here’s our hero. And then these are the monsters. It’s relentless. I’m going to end this piece
by looking at these TV shows that many of us grew up with. They spanned the decades. We’ve got Seinfeld in the ’80s,
Sex in the City, ’90s, Friends, in the 2000s. We’ve exported these worldwide. Every one of these shows
is about ideal friendship. And every one of these
shows takes place in New York City, arguably
the most racially diverse city in US. The message, over and over– These two proud
people made an app that’s been very successful. It’s called the SketchFactor. When you go to a
new city, the app will tell you what
neighborhoods to avoid. And I bet you it would be
a lot of the neighborhoods that you all come from. So I’m going to end by
saying the most powerful way my life has been
shaped by my race, or what it means to be white,
is that I can be born into, I could learn, I could play, I
could worship, I could study, I could love, I could work,
and I could die in segregation. And not one person who’s
ever loved me or guided me has ever conveyed loss. And the message of segregation,
and the good schools and good neighborhoods
we love so much, is that there is no inherent
value in the perspectives and experiences of
people of color. And then you get to
this point in life, and now I’m a
professor, I’m going to have a hard time even
noticing they’re missing, much less being able
to take in their value. This is how white
supremacy is circulating. And so under the surface,
we have the good/bad binary, individualism, universalism,
internalized superiority, and investment in the racial
order, and segregation. These are the linchpins, of
white supremacy or racism today, that allows us to
live so unequal by race and profess that it has no
impact or meaning for us. So I’m going to end with
just putting these up here. And I feel the need to
say, it should be clear that I am a pretty
empowered person. I’m not coming across to you
as a guilt-ridden person. This is not about being bad. But it’s about waking
up and seeing the water, because I think the most
toxic and hostile condition for people of color, every
day, is unexamined whiteness. This socialization
comes out of my pores. And keep noticing, this
is my socialization, but I’m objective. You play the race card. I get to decide whether your
claims of racism are legitimate or not, from this background,
from this deep investment in a system that serves
me, but never being able to admit that to myself. This is the level
that we have to start to change those pillars,
within ourselves and in our relationships, if
we’re going to move forward. So I thank you very
much for your attention. [APPLAUSE]

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