Pam Nath has been living and working in New Orleans for the past seven years. She works for Mennonite Central Committee Central States and is a Roots of Justice trainer. She wrote this post for distribution to various Mennonite church publications as well as ROJ.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
“…the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs.” W.E.B. DuBois
Pew Research has released a new poll showing that merely 37% of White people believe that the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, raises important issues about race. (Compare to 80% of African Americans.) I know that there will always be some who “don’t see race” (supposedly), but a full two-thirds in what seems like such a clear case to me…. I’m not sure what to do with this. What is going on?
Since the poll doesn’t get into the reasons why people chose their answers, I’ve been trying to imagine why so many people say that Michael Brown’s killing doesn’t “raise important issues about race.” Maybe it’s these arguments:
I came across an interesting article summarizing a study that found that “Favoritism, not hostility, causes most discrimination.” The main point of the findings is that social scientists have studied discrimination as hostility towards out-groups (negative discrimination) and have not spent much time studying the effects of favoritism towards in-groups (positive discrimination).
I find this helpful in bringing to light that the driving force of oppressions is usually not hostility toward other groups, but to favoritism one’s own group – i.e. white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.
A co-author of the study, University of Washington psychologist Tony Greenwald, also made this point about the good intentions of decent people: “We can produce discrimination without having any intent to discriminate or any dislike for those who end up being disadvantaged by our behavior.”
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