Show the White People in Your Life what Institutionalized Racism ‘Looks Like’


*Some of my friends and family must get so frustrated with me. I think I naturally tend to see the good in people — whether that’s deserving or not. Oh I’m no pollyanna, trust. I have my moods just like you. But I have a tendency to go there first. And if I can be completely “transparent” for a moment, I believe they truly recognize this in me when it comes to talks about race.

I know racism is rampant. Even now I am working on an article detailing my own upbringing in the racist south, and how, in spite of it, as one of my idols, Dr. Maya Angelou, once wrote: and still I rise. Yet, and I don’t know if this comes from my background in education, or the fact that I have lived in such diverse communities and have even done a bit of international travel, I recognize a nag within me that says, maybe they just don’t know what it looks like.

Oh I know ‘they’ should…and oftentimes do. Hey, my honest feeling is that I should be wealthy, but dammit, I’m still far from it!

And therein lies the aforementioned frustration that I sometimes feel fester inside the people in my life.

And the topic of these feelings can be inspired by anything: a section from a book read by my bookclub, something in the news, a comment by someone in the room, a shared experience, whatever. It comes from a natural progression of environmental occurrences.

So today, the motivation for this topic comes from an article I read. shared a story from The Charlotte Observer about a group of young Black men (pictured above) who hail from a variety of universities, now gathered for a conference hosted by the YBM Leadership Alliance at UNC-Charlotte.

More than 200 people showed up at a room in the Cone building, and the first topic on the agenda was to explore what’s next after all of the hashtags and marching don’t appear to be moving things forward when it comes to what I will call institutionalized racism.

At this point anyone who refuses to at the very least, acknowledge that racism exists, and that the Black man in particular has been and continues to be immediately and unjustly labeled as a threat to society — no matter what his status is — I don’t expect you to change now. Why would you, when you are obviously so comfortable wrapped in the warmth of your own ignorance?

But come on. It’s not like the rest of you don’t know. Surely you have peeped the video where educator Jane Elliott spoke to a roomful of Caucasian people on the uncomfortable topic of race.

You haven’t? Allow me.

But first. In the video, Elliott makes a request, “I want every white person in this room, who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our Black citizens, if you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment as our Black citizens in this society… please stand.”


And a panoramic view of the room shows that no one is standing.

Elliott wants to make sure her request is understood. So she repeats it.

Oh it was understood. And answered…truthfully.

The Charlotte Observer article states statistics that show how racial bias contributes to black men earning less than their white counterparts. And as we have seen time and time again, current times notwithstanding, Black men are more likely to be arrested and face tougher sentencing (or immediate death) when (or before) being convicted.

But these are some of the ways institutionalized racism and prejudice occur from moment-to-moment.

Whether in the news…

Check out the difference even in the presentation of this news story: “When the cops showed up, they were confronted by a “gentleman”…In all fairness to the reporter, she did admit, “I can’t see anybody getting away with what this guy got away with.”

Cut to incident. Cop sitting car. Camera facing him. He (and later another cop) are actually having a CONVERSATION with the “suspect” who is reportedly CARRYING A RIFLE, though we only see his hand.

Now, yes, Michigan is an open-carry state; but doesn’t this only apply to handguns? This man had a rifle and he is taunting the police.

Only five states in the U.S. prohibit open-carry. It will take very little research to compare the states where police officers fatally wounded Black men carrying no weapons even though the officers claimed they “suspected” they were.

And when it comes to encounters with police, black males (boys and men alike) are more likely to be fatally shot, even when they are unarmed or pose no lethal threat.

Or in the classroom…

One of the young men at the YBM Leadership conference told a story which shows how institutionalized racism and/or prejudice came about in his classroom.

As part of the enrollment process in his H.S. honors english class, the teacher asked students to comment on the books they’d read over the summer. They were all assigned three books to read. But when the teacher got to rising freshman Tony Wright, who attends Hampton U. in Virginia, she didn’t even bother to ask him about his reading. Needless to say, the student was confused and questioned her as to why.

The teacher said she didn’t ask because she assumed that Wright had been “too busy playing football and other sports” and didn’t have time to get to the assigned reading list.

Wright, a young black male, believes the teacher saw only skin color that day, even though he had worked just as hard as his white counterparts to earn his spot in the class.

“It was interesting to me that she already had a bias about me before she even knew my name,” he said at the YBM Leadership Alliance, a college preparation and leadership development program for young black men. “She assumed that I wasn’t reading over the summer or taking advantage of the free time I had to make myself better.”

YBM Leadership CEO and founder John Martin calls it “unfortunate” that oftentimes when these issues are discussed, the ones most impacted, young Black men, are not invited to the table.

He wants to change that.

And the YBM Leadership Alliance is how he goes about doing so. Here, young black men get to share their experiences and talk about the pressures associated with growing up as young black males.

And I invite you to share your comments on this article, share it and read the entire Charlotte Observer article here. But even more importantly, I ask how turning a blind eye, getting mad, fed up and frustrated to the point that you shut down entirely, or resort to finger-pointing, well, how’s that working out for you?

For us?

#eachoneteachone #callthemonitinthemoment #teachinstead #thisiswhatracismandprejudicelookslike

To be continued…

 ***I am DeBorah B. Pryor, and I approve this message.***

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