White Americans: We Have a Responsibility
By Julia Welch
Over the past couple of years, something I’ve learned about being white is that if something ever makes me feel comfortable about it, it’s probably wrong. Which is why upon reading the editorial “White Americans Should Not Be Held Collectively Guilty for Racism” that was featured in the Black History Month issue, I was on edge. I don’t usually keep up with The Collegian, but Professor Maynard-Reid mentioned it in class and afterwards I picked up an issue. Honestly, the article appeals to a part of my mind that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to stamp out and I can strongly assume it does the same for other white people.
Why are we asking this question? I have another question for white students, who do you think is asking this question? Are people of color asking this question, or are just white people? I feel like this is a question largely only white people are bringing up and I think it has less to do with whether white people are guilty for what their ancestors did and more to do with white people trying to covertly figure out just how responsible they are in ending racism. If we were to take the two groups of white people, one saying, “Yes we are guilty, yes we are responsible” vs the other group who say, “No we aren’t guilty nor responsible,” which group do you think is more likely to take action against racism? The answer to me seems obvious.
I’m writing this response to the article in hopes I don’t come across as condescending. I just wanted other white students/staff to think about why they may be so invested in proving they are not guilty. My thoughts on this aren’t things I came up with, but rather a cumulation of the things I have learned over the years from articles, documentaries, and YouTube videos. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized how I need to keep learning and acting.
At the end of the day, most of us don’t want to think about the implications of being a descendent of people who did racist stuff and/or people who didn’t stop the racist stuff, but it is our past and dissociating from it doesn’t erase it. So yes, we are responsible, and it is our responsibility to tackle racism.