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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

On Race

As a white male in my mid-60s who was raised in an upper middle-class home in a mostly white community, I always thought my views on race were fairly progressive. I certainly never considered myself a racist, nor did I think I harbored bigoted points of view with respect to other members of the human race.

That said, if I’m being honest, I must confess that watching news stories over the past year of policing efforts turned brutal and the tragic effect they’ve had on individuals, their families, communities, our country and the world have disturbed me…but, I’m sad to say for the most part, only at an intellectual level.

With this as a backdrop, I recently found myself in conversations with other men in a couple of mixed-race discussion groups that I’m a part of which have caused me to realize that “I don’t know what I don’t know” with respect to my attitudes on race. Sadly, I’ve begun to realize, as is often the case, that much of the “grooming” of my world view on the subject of racism has taken place in my subconscious without my even realizing that it been occurring.

This new awareness hit home for me recently after watching a brief video on the subject of racial viewpoints after which a white businessman in our discussion group shared a story of a heated conversation he had with a black colleague. During their exchange he shared in response to a “black lives matter” comment that, in his opinion, “all lives matter”.

After he shared this, I innocently made the comment, “What’s wrong with that?” after which it was explained to me in no uncertain terms that while at one level all lives certainly do matter, to articulate “all lives matter” as a response to the statement, “black lives matter” can be viewed as dismissive and a good example of systemic and/or structural racism.

While I had heard of systemic racism before, I was not familiar with the term structural racism. Here are the definitions from the Cambridge Dictionary.

Systemic Racism - policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.

Structural Racism – laws, rules or official policies in a society that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.

This experience has resulted in my beginning to evaluate a host of thoughts and emotions I’ve embraced during my lifetime which has prompted me to wonder what else I might not know about why I think and act the way I do on a variety of subjects.

Essentially, I’m wondering in what other areas I might be out of touch. What about you?

When you have 5-minutes you might find this video on systemic racism thought provoking.

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