I’d like to give props to the Lansing State Journal for posting a sectional cover story in yesterday’s Sunday paper entitled, “Living While Black.” The article is written by Jeffrey Wray, an East Lansing resident and an MSU professor who specializes in film studies, who is also African-American. Professor Wray writes about his various experiences of being pulled over, frisked, etc. by police because of his black skin.
When speaking about racial profiling, I think there is an assumption among whites that a black person can elevate themselves to such a level where this won’t happen to them anymore. If a black male sags their pants while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking through a bad neighborhood (still important to note, none of those things are crimes), a police officer might slow down and look them over, or if this same person dressed this way is driving either a very beat up vehicle, or a very nice vehicle while blasting bass-laden gangster rap (still not crimes), that profiling could happen. But if a black person gets advanced educational degrees and they live in a nicer part of town and don’t sag their pants and don’t blast gangster rap, that they’ll break through the oppression of racial profiling.
Professor Wray’s testimony shows that this is not the case.
I want to applaud him for his courage to speak out about this issue and to the LSJ for publishing it so prominently.
(The original LSJ article has been removed due to time expiration, but this link contains most of the original article) The comments (from the LSJ article online) are pretty predictable. There are thankfully refreshingly numerous amounts of people of all colors empathizing with and apologizing to Professor Wray for what he’s had to go through. There are also the predictable white responses that completely invalidate Professor Wray’s experience, some even resorting to name calling.
My hope, as I’ve written about quite a bit over the past few months, is that white people can humble themselves enough to simply listen to a person of color’s experience and not feel the need to be defensive about it.
And also to show us that the continued social separation of races in America is what causes the fear, uncertainty, stereotyping and high levels of emotion we have about race. This isn’t going to go anywhere until we make intentional individual and cultural shifts toward being in racially diverse community in our schools, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, networks, and circles of friends.
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