Recently I was talking with another white person about race. I mentioned the study discussed in my last post, which demonstrates that white prejudice against black males is a factor in job hiring in New York City. That part of the conversation went fine. But we went on to discuss prejudice in our own neighborhood. In us.
Immediately, my friend got defensive. "People of color do that, too," she insisted. "They can be just as racist as anyone." That argument is called "Parallelism". Parallelism suggests that the playing field is level. The blue team can commit a foul, so can the red team. I think it's erroneous. Here's how the blog Resist Racism puts it: "An experience you have as a white person that you think is similar to an experience related by a person of color is not a valid proof that racism doesn't exist."
Here's an extreme example of parallelism: In Germany in the late 1930s and early 40's, Jews didn't trust Germans. Germans didn't trust the Jews, either. But in those days, Europe was hardly a level playing field.
No, I am not saying that for people of color, America today might as well be Nazi Germany. And I'm not saying that people of color can't be prejudiced against white people.
But if we're willing to admit that "racism against people of color still exists out there in our society"--and most white people are--we also must take an additional step. Where is it in my life? In my neighborhood? In my heart? My white friend's defensive attitude posed the question: Are you accusing ME of being racist? No. But we need to talk about race. We need to examine our attitudes, because to avoid the race issue proves my point. Who can afford to ignore racism against people of color? Who can pretend it doesn't exist? Only those who aren't affected by it. It's called white privilege.