This winter, we have been facilitating a book club where we read “Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book”. In our recent meeting, Kate Schatz co-author of the book joined us for a compelling conversation which turned to Racism vs. Bias.
We concluded the conversation topic by saying that Racism 100% about power.
It’s no secret that Racism is still a significant societal problem. But what exactly is Racism? And what’s the difference between Racism and prejudice or bias?
Racism is “the belief that one race is superior to another.” It’s a system of discrimination that gives certain privileges to one group of people while denying them to another group. Racism can be overt (e.g., hate speech, segregated housing, etc.) or covert (e.g., workplace discrimination, microaggressions, etc.)
On the other hand, prejudice or bias is “a preconceived judgment or opinion.” We all have a bias – it’s a part of human nature. This is why we need to be aware of our bias because when it leads us, it can lead us to act in a discriminatory way toward others, and that’s when it becomes a problem.
Racism and bias can both have serious consequences.
Racism can have dangerous consequences. It can lead to physical and emotional harm, economic inequality, and social unrest.
Prejudice or bias can also have serious consequences. It can lead to discrimination and exclusion, harming a person’s mental and physical health.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Two Americas
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech to Stanford University on the Two Americas where he spoke to the dangerous consequence that racism had 56 years ago. We suggest you read the full text (or watch the video linked above) the similarities between 1967 racism and 2023 racism are shocking and significantly the same.
Dr. King describes that white America has the privileges of “food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits” resulting in, “opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.”
While there is another America that black and brown people experience, “a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums.” Where “people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
As Dr. King continued to paint the picture of Racism in 1967, that surprisingly and not surprisingly sounds like what we are dealing with now in 2023.
Dr. King says, “Now the other thing that we’ve gotta come to see now that many of us didn’t see too well during the last ten years — that is that Racism is still alive in American society. And much more wide-spread than we realized. And we must see Racism for what it is. It is a myth of the superior and the inferior race. It is the false and tragic notion that one particular group, one particular race is responsible for all of the progress, all of the insights in the total flow of history. And the theory that another group or another race is totally depraved, innately impure, and innately inferior.”
He closes with, “with this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and live together as brothers and sisters, all over this great nation. That will be a great day, that will be a great tomorrow.”
Our question to you is, our challenge for you, is tomorrow here for you? What actions will you take to make this 56-year speech obsolete?
How can we make a change?
We can make a change by increasing our awareness of these issues and taking action to stand up against discrimination.
We can support organizations that work to combat Racism and prejudice.
Listen to and amplify Black and Brown voices
Call out bigotry and hate speech
Stand up for people being harassed — intervene if it's safe to do so (Look into legitimate Bystander Trainings)
As Dr. King said, “And so we must help time, and we must realize that the time is always right to do right.”