Groundwater Op-Ed 9/14/17

On Tuesday night this week, a group of nearly 200 people gathered at the Elon Community Church of Christ to do something quite radical in these divided times. Hosted by AREA, the Alamance Racial Equity Alliance, these people gathered to learn about the subject of racism. We have often heard this term, especially as of late in the wake of the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, VA. Rarely do we, however, have a true grasp on what this term means, nor are we all in agreement about the definition itself. Tuesday evening, people gathered to learn about just that. What is racism? How is our society affected by it? How can one measure racial equity?

Dr. Terrence Young and Deena Hayes of the Racial Equity Institute directed our attention at structural entities, often separated, that keep us from having this discussion of racism. It is highlighted in our systems of health, education, housing, criminal justice, political access and more. When these systems are discussed, we separate them and deal with problems called “health disparity”, the “achievement gap”, “disproportionality in neighborhoods” ETC. What we are seeing is that these titles are only serving to fragment the addressing of an underlying problem, systematic racism. Dr. Young went on to explain that merely the discussion of class or poverty do not solely explain this problem. Across all sorts of comparisons, populations who are white in our country have created and maintained a vast advantage over populations of color.

Slide after slide of documented examples flashed upon the screen. Some people shifted in their seats. Some people had to leave. Some people shook their heads and made audible sounds of disapproval, not of the messages, but of the content of the data in all its starkness and undeniability. Imagine the crux of this lecture being based on the simple fact that for at least 350 years, there have been considerable advantages held by white people that have not been enjoyed by people of color, and further, those advantages were stolen from, denied, and held above people of color. The quote, “Working twice as hard to get only half as far” applies to our current understanding of racism. We are looking at a history that flows right into today.

If you pay attention to children, you will notice that they do not accept unfairness well. They call it out exactly as they see it. Racism should be called out for exactly what it is – a systemic feature of an unfair system perpetuated by the silence of white people who say things like, “I don’t see color” or “Racism is in our history, but I don’t have anything to do with that.” Look around, it is apparent in every system upon which we depend, every corner we turn. I am so grateful that finally there are conversations being had, lectures being given, and consciousness being raised to the fact that this systemic problem of racism needs to be dealt with, and it comes not a moment too soon.

Anita Kinney, Alamance county native white woman, member of the Alamance County NAACP

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