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Darron T. Smith, Ph.D. Headshot

The Responsibility to End Racism

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Decades of evidence-based research indicate that white racism remains a significant problem in American society. Unjustly inherited white resources and continuing discriminatory practices have restricted access to better paying jobs, decent and affordable housing in great neighborhoods, excellent health care, and a political voice in Washington that matters.

White racism is a systemic phenomenon that is deeply woven in the fabric of our society and has a corrosive effect on the minds, bodies and souls of all Americans, including white people. Dealing justly with American racism means that white Americans must come to terms with the historical legacy of inequality inherited from their forbears. This means partaking in a thorough review of the United States as a nation founded (in part) on racist principles. We tend to underestimate the impact of systemic white racism, rationalizing it as an individual affair rather than a system of oppression involving 246 years of slavery and 90 years of Jim Crow for roughly 85 percent of our existence as a nation.

Since the 17th century, the political and economic elites -- mainly white men -- played a role in shaping our institution that disproportionally benefits white people to this day. Whether or not they are actually aware of their skin-privilege, over 20 generations of white Americans have inherited socioeconomic resources from their forbearers who benefitted unjustly from slavery, segregation, and other forms of racial oppression.

To the present, Americans of color have been economically impoverished and struggling because white Americans, past and present, have used extensive discriminatory motives and resistance to change to protect their group position. Just as it is impossible for any man to fully understand a woman's position in our sexist society, no white American can fully empathize with white racism and the experience of being black in America. Hence, all white Americans have some inclination (to varying degrees) to overlook the realities and affects of racism that undermines any real chance for communities of color to have some semblance of success and group uplift at the so-called "American Dream."

White people, listen. It is your responsibility to end racism. According to Mychal Denzel Smith, "From the avowed racist, to the anti-racist activists, to the 'I'm not a racist, I have two black friends' folks, to the 'I don't see color' people and everyone else between or on the margins. It has to be a concerted effort on the part of white people to actively reject racist beliefs, thoughts and actions."

Therefore, it must be a concerted effort by those same white people to actively end racism and other forms of U.S. oppression in order for our society to see positive change. And this means giving up some of your unearned and unjust privileges even though you feel entitled to them.