February 12, 2018

An Interview With Bryan Stevenson on Institutional Racism and Changing the Narrative

This interview touched on so many themes I’ve been reading and writing about lately. There’s no single item that stands out for quotation.

This one, though, encompasses a great deal of the contemporary problem of racism in America; that is, the notion that ethnicity determines class that leads to expectations and privilege, which in turn reinforce class and has produced America’s own caste system (James McWilliams—Pacific Standard):

[Stevenson:] Well, there is this burden in America that people of color bear. This presumption of dangerousness weighs on you. And when we don’t talk about it, when we don’t name it, the burden only gets heavier. People of color have to navigate around these presumptions, and it is exhausting.

[McWilliams:] And yet, so hard for so many white people to recognize, much less acknowledge.

But when somebody affirms that it exists, it can be really liberating. It can be really affirming to know that you are not crazy. As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate the weight of a lifetime lived navigating these presumptions. And so I want to affirm for young kids that the world will still do that to them, but they should know that the world is wrong, and that you have to not only endure, but you have to overcome. A lot of people of color applaud when I say this. They do so because they have never had anybody in a public space—in a mixed space—say it. And I think we have to say that, you know. But, yes, I do think that there’s an implicit bias that undermines how we interact with one another, and I do think that, in America, no one is free from the threat created by our history of racial inequality.

Whites included.

Yes. You can be very progressive, you can be very educated, and you can still be complicit in the kind of microaggression that takes place when you look at people through this lens of racial difference.

The entire interview is well worth a read.

Scanning around the site, which I’ve not done before, I found a handful of interesting reads. Pacific Standard joins my list of credible idea and news sources.

(Thanks, Marsha, for the pointer to this story.)

#BryanStevenson #EqualJusticeInitiative 

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