Open Letter to the Three White Students That Filed A Discrimination Complaint Against Their Black Teacher

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Hi guys. Before you ask, I’m white too. Someone wise said social activism tastes better when the waiter is white, and while this is unfortunate, you clearly aren’t listening to your professor, Shannon Gibney, so I thought I’d take a moment to clear some things up, mano-a-mano. You know, Caucasian-a-Caucasian.

Let me make something clear right up front: you have no real idea what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race. Neither do I. You know why? Because we’re white. We’re white people in America, and that means almost every aspect of the country we live in is geared toward us: 99% of books, television, film, magazines, and even porn is made for us and represents us. Maybe you read (though for some reason I deeply doubt it) my article on the absurdity of #WhiteGirlsRock. It’s absurd because white people don’t need an extra reminder of their value…because it’s reaffirmed for them (for us) every single day by the people we see in the media, by the people that run this country, and yes, even by the people that act as our educators. American education has long been under fire by people who use their brains over the continued teaching that Christopher Columbus was a great dude and a hero and someone we should all celebrate year after year. But you probably still think that, don’t you?

Probably before you got to college, most of your teachers taught the version of American history that high schools are wont to teach: Columbus was like Mr. Rogers with a (crappy) map, the Pilgrims sang Kumbaya with the Native Americans, and slavery just wasn’t that bad. I imagine college courses might have been a bit of a shock for you, with discussions that maybe didn’t valorize violent colonization and actually shone a light on the perspective of people who weren’t white.

Is this where things started to get uncomfortable for you? I imagine the first lecture on America’s legacy of brutality and oppression left you in shock. Maybe you thought that particular professor was just a wayward nut job. But then another class discussed institutional racism, and another. And you began to squirm in your seat because whoa this wasn’t just one time where your whiteness—the thing that you might have squeaked by on for the entirety of your short life; the thing you’ve unconsciously relied upon to get you out of trouble with the campus police, out of detention and on the honor roll in high school; the thing that might have gotten you your consecutive summer jobs—that thing, that whiteness, is being criticized, not just once by one random professor who your privilege enables you to ignore, but more than once. You see petitions and articles on the Internet talking about racism and bias and…gasp…white privilege. And you’re sick of it, right? Because who wants to sit in a room full of people, people who don’t all look and sound like you, and talk about the ways that you are flawed? That’s uncomfortable. That’s awkward. That doesn’t feel good. It feels like being singled out; it feels like being held accountable for things you don’t feel responsible for; it feels like being defined by the color of your skin; it feels like being blamed; it feels like being…discriminated against.

But it’s not discrimination, boys. And here’s why.

Because this is one classroom in your entire life. One speck of discomfort in an ocean that is your life of privilege. Because white supremacy dictates that your skin—and let’s not forget your maleness—will make things fundamentally easier for you than for a person (and especially a woman) of color. That feeling of being on the spot? Of being defined by the color of your skin? Of being blamed for things that other people of your color do, even if you have not done them yourself? That’s not a classroom for people of color. That’s life. There’s no walking out of class. There’s no transferring to a different professor. There is only more of the same, with the hope that dialogue, education, and activism will pull the collective ostrich head from the ground, bit by bit, until that structural racism that you don’t like talking about is eradicated.

Look, guys. I see why you’re uncomfortable. You have been taught your entire life that white is always right. Your formal education has revolved around the valorization of colonization, the championing of racist brutes, and the marginalization of people of color. You have grown up insulated from racism and discrimination and what those words truly mean. You have been trained to see your whiteness as the norm, the default, the center of the world: you think that Other people have a race, but you are just…you. Your whiteness has been an invisible tool that you have wielded your entire life, mostly without really realizing it, but now that people are criticizing the invisible tool, you are pissed, defensive, and maybe even afraid. I would say that’s normal. Everything you’ve been taught is being contradicted, so a little discomfort is expected.

That’s what you said, right? That the discussion of structural racism made you uncomfortable? That you felt the classroom was hostile? That you didn’t like that “we have to talk about this all the time”? I have a simple question for you: how do you think people of color feel? What if that classroom that you felt was hostile was your world, your life? You have now filed a formal discrimination complaint with your college against your professor, which I’m sure in your mind is some kind of activism, but by filing that complaint, you are attempting to silence a voice speaking out against discrimination. It’s odd, you see. It’s odd that you want your voice to be heard and your pain acknowledged, but you don’t want to acknowledge the suffering of people of color. You want to talk about discrimination against yourself—but you don’t want to talk about discrimination against people of color. Interesting. Maybe if you’d actually paid attention in that lecture on structural racism, you’d have learned that discrimination in the context of 21st century America has political, social, and economic ramifications. Your hurt feelings, your 90 minutes of discomfort, are just not included in that, fellas.

Bottom line: I want you to be uncomfortable. It means you’re being challenged. And that’s what college is for, isn’t it? I’m not a teacher, but I know that mental growth, like physical growth, comes with growing pains. It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. It’s going to hurt and you’re going to come out the other side bumped and bruised…but better. Shannon Gibney is trying to make the world better. She’s trying to make you better. What have you done lately?

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71 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Three White Students That Filed A Discrimination Complaint Against Their Black Teacher

  1. Socialkenny says:

    I think this’ a bit bias, and because I’m black, doesn’t mean I’ll immediately jump on the “black is right” bandwagon here.

    If the students feel grieved, then they should be able to address it without trepidation or worrying about the status quo.

  2. Great article as always, Olivia. I encountered a similar level of discomfort with a close white friend of mine, when we had a discussion on slavery and colonisation…White privilege is damaging to white people, in that it puts blinkers on their eyes, and oftentimes prevents true understanding and discussion of racism and discrimination. Keep up the good work!

  3. diahannreyes says:

    Really insightful article, Olivia.

  4. What a stunning first paragraph, and then it gets better. Brilliant effort, Olivia, once again.

  5. eldiaz158 says:

    Hi, Olivia; I recently started following your blog and find you to be very insightful and honest. Your take on this situation is right on point and you make several points that many White Americans just don’t want to deal with. I have dealt with my share of racism in my life in this country, especially in the classroom. Those kids have no idea what being the victim of racism is. Thanks for your insight.

  6. Well written. I just had my last lecture in my Race & Ethnic relations class today and we dealt with these issues all semester and of course the classroom would get tense at times but its good to air these issues out. Some feel that because Obama is in office that the hundreds of years of racism has been erased just like that which isn’t the case. The black community has made great strides in healing and moving forward, but then things like this happen and all we can do is shake our heads.

  7. This piece is stellar and thanks so much for opening with my post:)

    Everything you said is spot-on and further underscores why the black/white scale of social injustice will increasingly become gray as we begin to acknowledge the bits of racism and privilege we are all accountable for. Great job!

  8. John Horn says:

    Wow, just wow. You do realize the exact same things said to a non-majority that you have said here, is racism. Just because someone is in the majority doesn’t mean they can’t be discriminated against and to think otherwise ensures that you simply don’t know what racism is.
    I’m a white male, grew up in on Faber St. in Detroit, and I know what racism is, pure violent horrible racism because of my skin color, the same thing that other African/Asian/Hispanic Americans know. It is all wrong, but unfortunately something that is most likely impossible to root out. It is horrible what has happened in history to minorities, but I didn’t have a part of it.

    Eventually white Americans will be in the minority and Hispanic Americans will be in the majority. Then will discrimination not happen to Hispanics because there are more?

  9. Can I just say that just because someone is Latino, doesn’t mean they are not White. White privilege is something that isn’t spoken about but White Latinos don’t want to admit their privilege as well. This isn’t to come down on anyone, Im just saying, white latinos have about as much European in them as non latino whites.

    This next comment is also meant to be taken in context…I am Afro-Latino. To the outside world, Im just African-American, which isn’t incorrect. So I usually just prefer the term Black. I am in an interracial relationship. My boyfriend of two+ years is a non-latino white american. Two years in, and we still can’t have an honest conversation about male privilege or white privilege without him yelling “reverse racism.” My boyfriend has been breed to believe certain things, that are very hard to unlearn after 26 years of life.

    Race is a very touchy subject, but just a week ago, I wouldn’t let go him referring to a girl he didn’t know personally as a slut. He didn’t understand why I was making a big deal of it, but it was more that I was challenging his normal that I think made him uncomfortable, and continues to.

    So just understand, fighting social injustice shouldn’t mean silencing others. If people are open to the conversation, it shouldn’t stop with just one person’s opinion.

  10. john will says:

    Here is some knowledge for ya,

    You are a complete fucking idiot.

    Not only are you an idiot but you are an indoctrinated , brainwashed delusional idiot .

    You are also a racist just like your communist buffoon professor that you want to peotect.

    If you had any sign of a brain in that thing you call a head you would do some real research instead of buying into the communist racist ideoligies that twit is spewing.

    But i no, you are in this for the recognition arent you? Yea, ill just bet you go home apologizing every night for somerhing you are not responsible for.

    Geez people lime you make me want to vomit.

    I just cant comprehend how idiots lime you even get by in real life

  11. Great piece, Olivia. I’m Dylan’s mom.

  12. Jaime Jenett says:

    Oh, PREACH! I love this. Love love love. It’s so completely our job as white people to call out other white people on their racism. This was funny and articulate and awesome!

    Jaime Jenett
    http://jaimejenett.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-love-letter-to-middle-class-white.html

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thanks so much, Jaime! I’m happy to have you here.

      • Jaime Jenett says:

        So so happy to know other white people in the world who a) “get it” and b) are trying to have these conversations/dialogues with other white people. I tried to do that in my blog post referenced above. I had to give up wanting it to be perfect and go with it being a conversation starter. I think that’s a big part of what we have to give up to do this work- wanting to be perfect! :-)

  13. Peace Olivia, I’ve read a couple of your posts and greatly appreciate it. I am an artist and organizer here in MPLS and wrote my own open letter that has been receiving similar feedback as yours, I wanted to share it with you. Solidarity http://ryanwilliamsvirden.com/2013/11/09/an-open-letter-to-the-three-white-men-that-complained-about-discussing-structural-racism/

  14. Mia Jones says:

    you’re a badass white chick and i so enjoy your blogs. thank you for being a strong voice and for writing truth and perspective that we, as black people aren’t “allowed” to have.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Mia. Apparently I’m not allowed to have this perspective either –white folks get pretty damn angry when you discuss their privilege–but it is certainly accepted with more willingness and less violence than if a black author had written it. A huge problem, one I hope to be involved in fixing. Ultimately white voices need to uplift black voices when it comes to these discussions, and I certainly plan to do just that.

  15. Oliva you are my sista from another mother! I love your blog you say what so many people are thinking with eloquence and grace. Thank you for being bold and confident and speaking the truth. I wish more people could be honest and open like you! I’m a fan keep up the good work.

  16. The three students are, it would seem, upset that the professor broke the first rule of White Club:) I hope their school laughs their complaint out of the review and we all move quickly along the road of awareness. Actually, I’m kind of amazed this degree of density still continues. It seems worse than when I was in University ’79 to ’84.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thanks for stopping by, John. Unfortunately the school is actually taking the side of the white students and have reprimanded the professor. I am writing letters and I encourage you to do the same.

  17. Hi Olivia,

    I really, really, really love your piece. These students’ opinions of themselves as white people has never been challenged this significantly. They took it hard, and are being whiny little babies.

    Look at it from their point of view. They believe that because they’re white, they can do no wrong, so don’t accuse them of having privilege and cultural domination! In the 21st century, the white man is an oppressed minority, so how can Shannon Gibney’s discussion of structural racism be true at all? Claiming discrimination all comes down to the entitlement they think they have as white people not to be told something they’re “uncomfortable” with (I think that’s what you’re saying.) So, really, they’re still being racist and making fools of themselves by claiming they aren’t racists. Any statement that begins with “I’m not racist but…” automatically leads to me tuning out and walking away, which I definitely would from these fools.

    • oliviaacole says:

      I would love to walk away from them too. Had they merely just left the class and not filed a formal complaint (which is the school is accepting) then we could. I encourage you to write a letter to the school and criticize their handling of this situation.

    • art937 says:

      Olivia,

      I just read your article “Open Letter to the Three White…” on Huff Post, BlackVoices. What can I say? I am truly speechless and admire your courageous statements. Honestly, with you being white I am surprise that you get it and at least understands the whole dynamics of white privilege. Personally, I never was asking for sympathy, but at the very least have some empathy. You have demonstrated that to me very well in your blog post. Once things have been realized and accepted and only then can we began to move forward to attempt to repair some of this damage.

  18. Thank you for this post. I have read a few of yours and the patience and care you usually show is stunning and I think it is probably that, more than your whiteness that makes your audience listen.

    That being said, I wonder if there isn’t a conflation going on here. There are two facts that I agree with: 1)This was not a case of discrimination against the students. 2)There is such a thing as white privilege. I think that I even agree that white privilege is what led the students to file a complaint. But I do not agree that the reason this was not a case of discrimination is white privilege. That logic implies that folks of a traditional majority should accept anything lobbed at them because of their status, which I do not think is true. That is to say, it is not the condition of the object of such a potential attack that makes it valid or not.

    This was not discrimination because the substance of what the professor said contained no attack on the students in the first place. It consisted of a valid critique of structures of whiteness, which is not the same as a personal attack on an individual. It is a nuanced distinction, but an important one that the professor herself noted.

    But, again, thank you for the post and bringing attention to this injustice.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Johnetta. Thank you for your thoughts. I can’t say I agree that this “implies that folks of a traditional majority should accept anything lobbed at them because of their status.” The fact is, you *can’t* discriminate against a majority. Their privilege protects them from it. Forgive me if being harsh, but when a majority feels set upon–especially a majority with centuries of history of supremacy–it means nothing but hurt feelings. So it’s not that a majority “has to accept” whatever is lobbed at them, but that they CAN.

      • For to be free is not simply to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that enhances and respects the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

        Olivia – I’m so glad you responded, particularly in that manner. It made clear part of what I conveyed in my response to the woman below. Racism, sexism, heteronormativity: those sorts of categories of disorders are not simply specifications of discrimination. Rather, they have imbued within them notions of history and power. Racism in this framework absolutely entails not just discrimination based on race, but also a historical context and structures that also support discrimination based on race like economics, politics, social marginalization, etc. And given that, there is no such thing as reverse racism because you cannot be racist against someone who benefits, intentionally or not, from their racial category. It is a logical fallacy.

        On the other hand, discrimination, by definition and discursively, is largely deployed as a legal term and is much more broad and somewhat loosed from historical and power considerations. It is doing something unjust to someone based on a category that they occupy. Our evaluation of the potential harm that this brings may make some discrimination seem worse than others, but it is absolutely not the case that you cannot discriminate against a person who occupies a majority category.

        The difference, as I said somewhat vaguely before, is important. It is simply not ok for one human being to bring harm to another. Certainly, racism brings harm of a magnitude that is systemic, but it is dismaying the way you dismiss “hurt feelings,” by redefining discrimination as something that can only happen to minorities. As my elders have taught me through their writings, this is the root of the root. Human beings find all kinds of ways to rank and order each other and this becomes pathological when those rankings are subsequently used to dismiss any kind of harm to another human being.

        I want to be clear. I am convinced that one cannot be racist in America towards a white person. But you can discriminate. And dismissing damage of any kind done to a human spirit, doing something to a fellow soul that reduces life lived freely and with dignity, even hurt feelings, based on a category is a terrible, terrible thing and we should never excuse it because of other damage being done in other ways. I believe your misuse of the term discrimination does this and is worth reconsidering. James Balwin says so. Malcolm X says so. Nelson Mandela says so. If you do not believe me, then at least believe my elders. If you do not temper your revolution with grace, you will simply recreate the damage that has been done since the first human being saw and acted upon difference.

        I apologize for the long response, but I watch my contemporaries grapple with this as though we cannot learn from our elders, as though we have to relearn all of these things each generation. Without exception, revolutionary leaders who live to a certain age have tempered their beliefs with grace as they grow older. They generalize and expand their experiences and begin to recognize that the form whatever oppressive “–ism” they face is both global and local because it is a human condition and not some inherent malfunction of a majority eye. This does not erase critique of historical processes, it does not undo the interrogation of the impact of power.

        We are not engaging in the process of remaking our society so that someone else’s feelings may be counted more or less than anyone else’s, regardless of that person’s current power status. We are engaging for equity, equality, and love. I do not know how you reconcile your approach with this, with the lessons of the past. What I do fear is that your willful repetition of this premise, that history and power make it ok to differentiate between harm, only leads to retrenchment. And that’s fine for you. Your white woman privilege means you have the luxury of fighting this fight until you’re blue in the face and you will do so without consequence for your casual dismissal of someone’s emotional pain. But for my nephews and future sons, Imma need some humanity in this life so that real human to human peace can be achieved. And grace. God knows, I will need grace.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Hello again Johnetta. I think where we are missing each other is my failure to see how these three white students were discriminated against? What harm was brought against them other than a “harm” to their worldview, one that has been carefully guarded and painstakingly reinforced? I certainly don’t mean to say that it’s “ok to differentiate between harm,” but how were these boys harmed? Their right to live freely stops where other’s rights (their professor’s, for one) begin.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Understood. Thank you for providing some illumination here, Johnetta. You’ve given me a lot to think over.

  19. When you said “Let me make something clear right up front: you have no real idea what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race. Neither do I. You know why? Because we’re white.” it really got my blood boiling.

    Saying that white people cannot be discriminated against because America is geared toward them falls in the same category as saying that it is not possible to get pregnant through legitimate rape (remember the politician who said that?), or that men cannot be victims of domestic violence if their partners are women. It is that ignorant of an assertion, however one I would have agreed with until racism happened to me. Lucky you to not have had to learn this lesson the hard way.

    Any person of any race can be a racist. Being discriminated against because of your race is horrible no matter who you are. It is like banging your head against a wall, knowing that no matter how fantastic you are that you’ll never get ahead just on merit, that you have to be over the top good just to be considered adequate. I have experienced racism even though I am a white person. It was a horrible experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    P.S. There is no such thing as reverse discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination, and the target of discrimination is hurt no matter that person’s race. Saying otherwise only perpetuates a culture of discrimination.

    • You know, this was really helpful for me. I think there’s a difference between racism, as critical race theorists use it, and discrimination. Racism is a type of discrimination defined not only by race, but also by history and power. You cannot be “racist” in this manner towards the group that largely holds power and was responsible for the history. On the other hand, anyone can discriminate against anyone else on the basis of race or for any other reason. And it is always wrong. Still, even given all that, this was neither discrimination nor racism. Not because discrimination cannot happen and not because racism cannot happen to white folks in America, but because the professor was simply not engaged in anything but telling the truth about what the structure of whiteness has done and continues to do in the US.

      • tasy walker says:

        But these boys felt they were being targeted based on their race and gender. Why did a Mass Communications class focus in on this subject day after day other than to “shape minds.” When they asked their teacher why they had to learn this they were told to file a complaint. So in their view, they were being singled out and scolded (told they were rotten) because they were white. Sounds like discrimination to me.

    • oliviaacole says:

      “Any person of any race can be a racist.”

      No, Kathy. You, as a white woman in America, cannot experience racism. Racism is a system of economic and political repercussions. Your whiteness will never keep you from getting a job. Your whiteness will never lead to mass profiling by police trained to see white people as dangerous criminals. Domestic violence can go both ways. Racism cannot. Please consult Peggy McIntosh’s checklist for white privilege for more reference. http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    • Kathy, I feel your pain. Your entire life, you’ve understood “racism” to mean one thing, and people around you have used it to mean that thing. Furthermore, if you look it up in the dictionary, your understanding of the word will be confirmed as the official one (or at least as one of the official ones). But Olivia and Johnetta are using the word in a narrower, more academic, more recent sense, and you’re not going to get them to admit to the validity of your vernacular understanding.

      The best approach, I think, is for most of us to use words like “prejudice” and “discrimination” instead of “racism,” since we’re not ever going to get everyone to agree on the definition of the latter.

      • I mean, racism is important to cope with. It was certainly racism that led the three students to respond in the way they did and we should name it and work through it as such. On the other hand, where Olivia and I part ways is that discrimination is something different. She and I also part ways because I think discrimination can happen to anyone and it is a bad thing. It does not have to be structural and it does not have to be pervasive for it to hurt and that is something, for me, that should be avoided.

  20. Thanks for this intelligent piece!

  21. Hi, Olivia (or Ms. Cole, whichever you prefer),

    We agree on a lot of things. Right off the bat, we both feel strongly that white privilege is a terrible reality that far too many people remain unaware of, and we agree that making them aware of it is a crucial step in dismantling the social apparatus that keeps it in place.

    With that said, I want to ask: if the three students addressed in this open letter actually end up reading it, do you think they will be convinced? My suspicion is that they will not, for the simple reason that, even though I already agree with you, I found the letter unpleasant .

    As you state in the letter itself, this topic is naturally uncomfortable for most lifelong beneficiaries of white privilege, so I’m not simply talking about the unease that creeps in because of the subject matter. I’m talking about some of the specific choices you make in your approach, and how those choices come across to a nuanced human being who does not exactly fit the descriptions you apply to the students while addressing them.

    For example, while it is generally true that our educational system does an awful job teaching the reality of European conquest in the Americas, that fact is more true in some states than in others, more true in some schools than in others, more true in some classrooms than in others. So when you tell the students that they have never been exposed to the real history of their country, you’re assuming facts that are not in evidence from the tiny sliver of information presented in the article. If in fact the students were taught in their high school that Columbus did some bad things, or if they did learn something about the brutality of slavery, then by telling them that they are ignorant of these subjects, you diminish your credibility. “Mrs. Clark spent a whole week telling us how bad we screwed the Indians over, so obviously this Olivia Cole chick doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” It doesn’t matter that one week is insufficient to convey the true magnitude of the injustices that were committed; as soon as the student recognizes a discrepancy between his own experience and your assumptions about his experience, you’ve put up a barrier between your message and your audience. You’ve provided them with an error in your presentation that they can use to distract themselves from your message.

    As Kathy Stormberg pointed out, there’s also a problem with this statement: “you have no real idea what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race.” You had to put the “real” in there because everyone has some idea of what it’s like to experience racial discrimination. We’ve all been discriminated against in one way or another, and it’s natural for us to think we can extrapolate from our experience to gain some understanding of what racial discrimination is like. But as a thought experiment, let’s go ahead and put people in two separate boxes. In one box are the people who have experienced racial discrimination, and in the other box are people who have not. The people in one box know exactly what it’s like, and the people in the other box just have some idea what it’s like. How good is their idea? In order to know, you have to observe the two boxes from outside to see how close together they are. It may make us feel good to say that white people have no real idea what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of race. But there’s actually no way to judge that notion objectively. We just don’t know if it’s true or not. And if a particular white person has been in a situation where s/he was in the minority and felt discriminated against, how can we judge how “real” an idea that person got about racial discrimination? What if that white person was raised by expatriate parents in Japan, a racially monolithic society which by all accounts treats outsiders very differently than it treats natives?

    By dismissing the accuracy of another person’s ability to empathize with victims of racial discrimination, you come across as attacking a point of commonality the person thinks s/he has with those victims. Why would you want to attack that commonality instead of trying to build on it?

    There are two enemies in our fight to overcome racial injustice. One enemy is unrepentant racism, a monster we should always try to shine the brightest light on and attack with the greatest fervor. But the other enemy is the failure of understanding, and that is an enemy you cannot kill with hostility. You can only kill it with outreach and empathy and a sincere appeal to the humanity that resides in most of us.

    If you think you know for sure that those three students are unrepentant racists, then there’s no reason to write this letter to them – they’ll never be swayed. But if you think their racism is anything short of impenetrable, or if you think that your letter might be read by others who are on the bubble between ignorance of white privilege and acknowledgment of it, then I think a more restrained, more subtle, and more empathic approach would yield better results. Otherwise you’ll get a lot of back-patting from those who are already on your side, but not much movement from those who remain in the unconvinced middle ground.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Herb,

      Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with many of them, but overall I do not think my tone was hostile. There has been much work done that takes a gentler approach to addressing white ignorance, white privilege and racism. I’ve seen it first hand in college where professors who attempted to sway their students with empathy and reason were disrespected outright by students, similar to the behavior of the three this letter addresses. I do not believe in coddling white sentiments. I get a lot of shit for that, but honestly, Herb…I don’t care. This is my way of teaching. I’ve received many an email from white people (men and women) who have praised my approach and said it “really made them see.” So while this style may not work for everyone, it works for some. This is my method, and that’s really all there is to it. White folks who are determined to remain rooted in their privilege will (and do) use any excuse, any justification, to discredit the voices that call them out. If it wasn’t my “hostility,” it would be something else. Unprepentant privilege is just as ferocious of a monster as unrepentant racism, and that privilege gives the individual the ability to dismiss, dismiss, dismiss, while still remaining comfortable. Why should they be allowed to remain comfortable? “You’ve provided them with an error in your presentation that they can use to distract themselves from your message.” For the person looking for error as justification, one will always be found. I’m going to do it my way, Herb. Thank you again for your insights.

  22. Both in sixth form and then later on at University when we studied Malcolm X many of the white students were aghast at his story and found him a despicable human being because of his racism. Their criticism would flagrantly disregard the wider context of his background and the state of the America in which he lived in at that time- that was more than hostile to its black citizens. Rather than take from his story what they should, they labelled him as an extremist and were completly disgusted, even after learning of him softening and reforming his approach. I felt so shocked at how apparently well educated people could be so blind. Great article!!

    • oliviaacole says:

      “Their criticism would flagrantly disregard the wider context of his background and the state of the America in which he lived in at that time- that was more than hostile to its black citizens.”

      I have experienced this very same thing. Those who insist on subscribing to a racist doctrine will always find a way to justify their hate and dismissal. Thanks for commenting!

  23. Reblogged this on That's all about and commented:
    “Probably before you got to college, most of your teachers taught the version of American history that high schools are wont to teach: Columbus was like Mr. Rogers with a (crappy) map, the Pilgrims sang Kumbaya with the Native Americans, and slavery just wasn’t that bad. I imagine college courses might have been a bit of a shock for you, with discussions that maybe didn’t valorize violent colonization and actually shone a light on the perspective of people who weren’t white. Is this where things started to get uncomfortable for you?”

Drop some knowledge

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