Continuing Conversation for 12/2: What is Helping? What is Hurting? What is Your Role?

Why is the white doll the good doll? In a study of kindergarten children, both black children and white chidlren chose the white doll as their favorite. Blacks and whites alike have been programmed since birth to think that whites are better. Black children are taught to be aware of their behavior at all times, because of possible danger, while white kids have the privilege of just being kids.

Debra Raines, Director of Mission Advancement at the Princeton YWCA, and Barbara Fox will lead the Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege on Monday, December 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library. “In the context of the YWCA’s mission — to eliminate racism, empower women — we will consider the particular cases of two men and two women,” says Raines.
The men: George Zimmerman (trigger happy and violent against both blacks and women) and George Stinney (shown left, at 14, the youngest male executed in the 20th century. Also the case of Eleanor Bumpers (fatally shot in New York in 1984 during an attempted eviction)  and Reneisha McBride (shot by a Detroit man when she knocked on his door in the middle of the night.)
Then identify what you THINK is helping
and what you think is HURTING.
What is your role on either side?
Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege are a friendly, safe, confidential opportunity to share ideas and voice concerns. They are planned and facilitated by Not in Our Town Princeton and held on first Mondays, from October through May, in partnership with the Princeton Public Library. All are invited.

One Comment on “Continuing Conversation for 12/2: What is Helping? What is Hurting? What is Your Role?

  1. I am not clear on what is meant by “What is helping?” and “What is hurting?”

    Helping what and hurting what? A clearer explanation of what thoughts and ideas the group leader is trying to elicit from her group would help create a more focused conversation.

    I also believe that beginning with assumptions, such as “both blacks and whites alike have been programmed since birth to think that whites are better” is not a good idea. Why not ask each person in the room what he or she was brought up to think or believe about differences between blacks and whites regarding the social, educational and economic status of each group.

    As a Jewish girl, I was brought up to believe that most non-Jewish persons were inferior to Jews and that Jews were smarter, more successful and the “chosen people”; yet I never believed any of what I had been told. As I grew older I began to learn that this claim was not only inaccurate but dangerous for the Jewish people because such an attitude engenders anger and resentment from others. I also believed the attitude of their superiority held by many Jewish people may have in part contributed to the fatal targeting of Jews in Nazi Germany pre WWII.

    As I traveled around the world during the last twenty years I met many people from different nations and ethnicities who, not realizing that I was Jewish, made claims in my presence that Jewish bankers were ruining the world and that Jews killed Christ. I found these claims unfair, biased and dangerous but I also knew that they existed for some reason. Jealousy? Resentment? I tried to find out through much of my life what the sources of anti semitisim were.

    In writing a paper on this subject, after researching the topic for two years, I came upon a book by Jacob Agus outlining a biblical history of the Jewish people. In the first few pages, this renowed historian and rabbi made the claim that in Roman times, people mingled in the market places seeking religious information from others: interest in the newest gods was commonplace. When it was discovered that the Jewish people were worshipping one god, rather than the panoply of the Roman gods, great curiosity was aroused. But the Jewish people refused to share their knowledge of monotheism with others.

    Agus claims that this period of history witnessed the beginning of antisemitism: when one group of people, the Jews, were behaving in an exclusive manner, rather than an inclusive one (which eventually the Jew Christ offered the world.

    I think we need to talk about whites versus blacks in a more rational way today, just as we need to talk about differences between Jewish and non-Jewish people without definitive ssumptions describing how people have been programmed to think. In a group such as race discussions, each person should tell his or her own story, stories that are not influenced by a leading assumption that each person was programmed in the same way. Everyone is different and observation by each can alter any existing program. It might be worthwhile to have each person contribute what they actually observed in the world regarding different black people they knew or were acquainted with.

    For my part, I have found as a generality, that most of the black people I have known in my life were more empathic, kind and gentler than many of the white persons I have known and grown up with. A generalization to be sure, perhaps a stereotype. But it is one voice that refuses to admit to being programmed. I thought for myself, observed for myself and that is what I concluded. We, as a nation, should be talking more about individuals than statistical research findings of group behavior, we need to talk about the goodness we find in individual people, rather than the evil,inferiority or other pejorative descriptions we too readily give to different groups.

    It well might be that in this kind of discussion of racism, the exception will more often prove to be the rule. Libby Zinman Schwartz

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