Hard Conversations and White PrivilegeWashCo Dems op-ed article

By Barbara Glazer, PCP
WashCo Dems Black American Caucus, Hard Conversations Facilitator

Here in the United States, like it or not, we live in educational, political, financial, and healthcare systems that designed to promote racism and “white privilege.”

School boundaries delineate segregated schools, and many textbooks exclude Native American history and “whitewash” slavery. There is a limited capacity for Head Start programs.

83% of teachers are white.
Only 2% of teachers are black males.

How does that impact children of color? What is the message sent to white children?

What, you may ask, is white privilege? You may also say, “I grew up poor, how can I have privilege?” My response to a question like this is: We white people don’t have to think about being anyone other than who we are in order to believe that we deserve, or are entitled to, the rewards of this society.

We don’t worry about our children being shot by police if they are carrying a cell phone. We don’t have to worry about what our name ‘sounds like’ on our resume for a shot at a job. We don’t have to concern ourselves with a tsunami of oppressive actions, words, statements, and attitudes that are built into our culture.

Oregon’s history of a lack of diversity and equity is painful. America’s history of a lack of diversity and equity is shameful.

For two and a half days in July, I was immersed in a workshop called “Undoing Systemic Racism,” sponsored by The People’s Institute, a group in Seattle, Portland, and several other cities.

After a few days of decompressing I’m able to talk about the material and my reactions/responses. I took this workshop to better facilitate Hard Conversations, Our Washington County Democrats group on white privilege and racism. I learned how much I didn’t know, and how much I need to continue waking up to our history of discouraging equity.

White folks are “gatekeepers” for each and every system. We interpret information, set the standards, control the flow of resources, and control the pace of change.

Who are we accountable to? 

The Flint, Michigan water is still contaminated. Our response to the devastation in Puerto Rico is abominable. The rise in hate crimes is well documented by the ACLU and SPLC.

Since the systems are designed to perpetuate racial disparity; the systems need to change. We need to challenge the educational system in the same way we challenge our political system, person by person. This process brings us together, so we can, as Caucasians, stop abusing our power. These are the facts, and facts can educate.

The Washington County Democratic Party is not representative of our County’s actual ethnic populations.

We all know that. We see it at every CC meeting. How many members of the Party know they have privilege? How many of us examine this privilege and explore what it means? It is not easy to do! But if we don’t, we perpetuate racism.

Please listen, and HEAR.  I am very concerned about our capacity to face our flaws and work to heal them. Healing will come when we acknowledge how poorly we have treated our members of color. Healing will come when we TRUST each other enough to be honest about our feelings, and the actions we take and have taken. 

To live in a racist system does not mean you are racist.

It means we may be unconscious or insensitive to the impact of our actions involving people of color, not out of malice, but out of lack of awareness.

We are not fragile. We are passionate, committed Democrats who deplore disparity and inequity. We yearn for freedom and equality. Let us have the courage to change our system, the Washington County Democratic Party, so we reflect our values.

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