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White Apathy

November 7, 2020 was a day of change for the United States. A new administration that promotes equality, rather than discrimination, will take office on January 20, 2020. While this will hopefully lead to a move in a positive direction for equity in policies and the justice system, progress needs to occur in our society on a cultural and individual level. I have been reflecting on white privilege and its many facets. I started doing the 28-day challenge called Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. The reflection process promotes people who identify as white to deliberate how they benefit from white privilege and harm POC with racist actions and thoughts. It’s a heavy and emotional course, but a necessary one. I would strongly recommend it.

In writing about white privilege, my intention is not to offend or judge. I am trying to practice what I preach and share what I learn. My intention is also not to seem enlightened or well-informed – this quest is a continuous learning curve. My intent is to keep the conversation alive and share knowledge, experiences, and ideas. It is important to reflect, evaluate and educate ourselves on our history and systemic and societal racism. Black Lives Matter is not solely a transient movement or a social media trend.  If you have any feedback for me, I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to email me at my Stern email address.

Racism causes so much discomfort for so many white people that we choose to ignore it and remain silent. The mindset that “I am not racist, so I don’t have to do anything” is a delusion. Also, refusing to see there is a problem by “claiming not to see color” is another misconception. I am curious if people who say that a) truly believe it and b) think that other people want to be seen as all the same. I, personally, want my skin color and gender to be noted because being an Irish American woman is part of my identity. However, while acknowledging individual culture, ethnicity, and race is a necessity, it does not change that we are all humans and therefore, all demand equal respect.

Most recently, I have been reflecting on white apathy. It misleadingly can appear benign, when in actuality, it is a fundamental pillar of white privilege. White apathy is the indifference to, disregard of, and dispassion for POC. It is not neutral because its lack of action and feeling causes harm. Through indifference, it ignores white privilege’s existence and undermines what an at large issue it is. When people with white apathy are choosing to stay in the comfort of ignorance, it belittles those who are facing racism every day. Overcoming white apathy, to begin dismantling white privilege, is not a charitable cause. It is a human duty. White apathy promotes a system that perpetuates hate and harm — institutionalized racism — that targets POC. The statistics around wealth disparity, food security, morbidity rates, and youth incarceration speak to that.

In my opinion, most of us exercise white apathy at times. White apathy emphasizes how tiring and overwhelming fighting racism is. It is demonstrated when we ignore the news or claim ignorance, blaming it on feeling drained, personal issues, or being sensitive. Using the justification that it is too daunting or impossible to make a systemic change is not an excuse. It’s wrong when we do this for a variety of reasons. People who experience racism don’t have the luxury to turn it off. Why should we be able to? White apathy is not uncaring for non-white people, it is the lack of desire to understand or face the disparities that our society has employed on the minority that benefit white people. To stay detached is to ignore the problem.

Photo credit: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/karen-is-being-used-by-white-women

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