Getting our attention: the first stepThe recently launched Un-Fair Campaign enables a number of organizations that share the mission of promoting racial equity and addressing disparities in our community an opportunity to work together. We invite the entire community to join us.
By: Scherrie Foster, for the Duluth Budgeteer News
The recently launched Un-Fair Campaign enables a number of organizations that share the mission of promoting racial equity and addressing disparities in our community an opportunity to work together. We invite the entire community to join us.
Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc. is one of the partnering organizations extending this invitation. The memorial, built and dedicated in 2003, honors the memory of three African American men lynched in our city in 1920, and seeks to remind our community that we must continue to “Bring the Truth to Light”. We strive to do so by adhering to our mission: Achieving racial justice through fostering education, reconciliation and healing within our community.
Confronting issues of racial inequity and disparity are never easy. Examining the world we live in, how we live in it, and with whom we live in it takes time, effort and honesty. Often what is asked of us, and how it is asked, can be challenging and unsettling.
The Un-Fair Campaign was launched with the challenging and unsettling message, “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white” on billboards and signs. This message was chosen because our community is 90 percent white, not because the campaign sought to accuse white people of being racists. Its intent is not to incite anger, pass blame, or impose guilt onto white people, but to get their attention. It is inviting those of us who are white to see racism in our community, to learn to know and understand how, when, and why it occurs, and to actively work to stop it.
As a seasoned educator, I have witnessed many white students in the Human Relations, Cross-Race and Intercultural Communication classes I have taught over the years grapple with issues of racism and white privilege in the very same way. They don’t recognize racism in their midst because they have friends of different races, they have adapted clothing trends and the slang and lingo of other groups; they love to listen to hip-hop and rap music. It hurts and angers them to be identified with racism. We talk about how fortunate they are to be exposed to and partake in other perspectives and experiences, and how not so long ago that was not an option in our society.
I explain to them how racism is bigger than us, bigger than individuals, but we are still a part of it. We examine the concept of race and how it evolved in our country. We look at how race was defined and used to categorize and classify groups of people.
We learn that historically, whites were categorized as superior. Now, it becomes easier for my students to understand how racism is a byproduct of race. They come up with examples of racism together. Students of color begin to share their experiences. The countless times one young black man driving his car was pulled over by the police; the time a Native American woman made an appointment over the phone to rent an apartment, but when she was met at the door by the landlord, was told the apartment was no longer available; the frustration of an Asian American student being repeatedly asked where he is from, when he is from here, and continually being stared at when filling up at any gas station in town.
My students are now ready to examine how white people receive advantages and privileges simply because they are white and that people of color don’t receive or have access to those same advantages and privileges. They begin to see how these privileges and advantages become invisible or automatic to whites because that has “always been the way it is.” They are able to embrace why “it’s hard to see racism when you’re white”.
CJMM, Inc. appreciates that the Un-Fair Campaign is inviting us to engage in risk-taking by examining the issues of racism and white privilege, challenging us to voice what needs to be voiced, and involving us in the positive transformation of our community. CJMM, Inc. sincerely hopes community members will choose to participate, too. Visit unfaircampaign.org and attend campaign events throughout the city.
Scherrie Foster is a communication consultant and tenured educator in Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. She is currently the co-chair of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc. Board of Directors.
Cracking the Shell of Whiteness is an event which takes place on Tuesdays in February and March. The first event takes place on February 14 from 6:15 – 8:45 p.m. at Peace United Church of Christ, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E. This is a curriculum to build capacity for white people to be in solidarity with people of color in the work of dismantling racism. Suggested donation is $50. Childcare will be available. If you are interested in learning more and to register, please contact Sandy Moore at scm1115@ msn.com or 218.724.1117.
Other discussions are taking place at various locations throughout the city. Visit www.unfaircampaign.org/calendar/to learn when and where or see the sidebar beside this article.
Events this week to encourage discussion on race and prejudice
Sponsored by the St. Paul Foundation’s Facing Race Initiative.
Green Room, Duluth Public Library, 520 W. Superior St.
To register, call 218.730.5630.
Feb. 21, March 6 & 20,
April 3 & 17 and May 1
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register (use “Register” in subject line).