Some Resources for Whites Wanting to Self-Desegregate
Of all the articles, statistics, and information that’s been floating around on Facebook and Twitter recently, this study, on the self-segregation of white Americans, has stuck with me the most. According to the research, the social networks of whites is 91% other white people. A full 75% of white people have no minority presence in their social networks at all.
When I first read this study, it wasn’t exactly clear to me if “social network” meant real life, or Facebook and Twitter, which for my generation is a heavy part of our social lives. The statistic shocked me because I’d estimate that about 1/3 of the actively tweeting people who I follow are non-white. And a smaller portion of my Facebook friends (but still a substantial one) are non-white as well.
I started thinking then about how different my social media experience would be, if the only people I got my news and current event info from were white. While a lot of my white liberal friends share the same views as my black liberal friends, they don’t share the same experiences. And it’s the experiences that I’ve read about – not the opinions – that have affected me the most over the years. It’s listening to people who have lived through things I’ll never understand (like racism) that has affected my politics, my opinions, and the causes I support.
So in the spirit of practicing something I need to get better at – using my voice to lift up the voices of POC – I’m going to share some resources from non-white writers and activists who have important things to say. If you’re white and don’t regularly follow any people of color (POC) then I highly recommend you check out some of the resources below. I say “people” and not “person’s” because I think it’s important for white people not to just find one POC who says everything they already believe, like say, Dr. Ben Carson, and then feel justified in tuning out every other non-white person’s voice. This is not OK. There is not one “spokesperson” for every race, and if the people of color you listen to don’t challenge you in any way, then you need to start listening to others. Here’s a good place to start:
Al Letson (NPR host):
As a young man, I’ve been pulled over for no reason more times then I can count, (literally one cop let me go cause I was bumping NPR- seriously, no kidding.) I stopped once on 1-95 to help an older white woman change her tire, the cop got out of his cruiser, and watched me in the Florida Sun sweat to fix this woman’s tire, the whole time he watched me, with his hand on his gun. The woman came to thank me, he stopped her, made sure she was okay, let her go first and made me wait, then let me drive away.
A friend and I ran a poetry reading and late one night, he called me, telling me a cop pulled him over for no reason and slammed him on the cruiser hood. I have 100 more stories from other friends, if I asked I’m sure I could source well over a thousand, that’s just one example.
The gospel calls us not only into individual faith in Christ, but also into the multi-racial family of God (Matthew 12:50) in which everyone has value and a voice, and those who were biologically born into higher status races (e.g., whites) intentionally listen to and stand in solidarity with those who were biologically born into lower status races (e.g., blacks) (Luke 13:30; Philippians 2:5-8)…This is not a calling to be taken lightly. As a unified family of God, we are empowered to address the racial issues that are afflicting our world….
Let me repeat: the unified family of God is the answer to the problem of race in America. For years, black Christians have invited white Christians to participate in the unified family of God by leaning into justice issues that affect black people.
The truth was that there was no financing for people like Clyde Ross. From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from “restrictive covenants” to bombings, to keep their neighborhoods segregated.
Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated “A,” indicated “in demand” neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked “a single foreigner or Negro.” These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion.
Imani Gandy (Writer/Legal Analyst):
The simple fact is that Black Americans are in crisis right now. In Ferguson, activists will be looking to the Department of Justice for answers if the St. Louis prosecutor announces—as many expect he will—that Darren Wilson won’t face any charges for the killing of Mike Brown. At the ballot box, Black voters will be relying on the DOJ to restore the voting power of people disenfranchised by voter ID laws and Republican gerrymandering. And when it comes to the War on Drugs, which continues to send disproportionately high numbers of Black and brown folks to jail, it is clear that we need an attorney general who understands the current civil rights crisis. Loretta Lynch is that person.
Jamelle Bouie (Writer):
Take Wilson’s account of Brown’s actions and language. He describes a vicious, combative Brown, quick with a quip and eager to fight with police. Based on what we know from his family and friends, this sounds out of character….
More troubling is Wilson’s physical description of Brown, which sits flush with a century of stereotypes and a bundle of recent research on implicit bias and racial perceptions of pain. In so many words, Wilson describes the “black brute,” a stock figure of white supremacist rhetoric in the lynching era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The southern press was rife with articles attacking the “Negro Beast” and the “Big Black Brute,” notes Philip Dray in At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America. To the white public, the “black brute” was a menacing, powerful creature who could withstand the worst punishment. Likewise, in northern papers, it was easy to find stories of “giant negroes” who “spread terror” and rampaged through urban centers. That image never went away; it lingers in crack-era stories of superpowered addicts and teenaged superpredators, as well as rhetoric around other victims of police brutality.
These are just a handful of the people I regularly follow, if you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.