Preventing Bullying: Building a Culture of Civility

In my professional life, I have been working with the folks at Global Ascension Productions to launch a series of video seminars designed to help schools prevent identity-based bullying.  What’s identity-based bullying, you might ask?

The video seminar series, entitled A Culture of Civility (stay tuned . . . the site’s a work in progress), is meant to engage the entire school community in discussion and action to prevent identity-based bullying.

As such, bullying’s been on my mind, and like most people who follow the news cycle, I was shocked to see this:

Pretty terrible stuff.  While I was in Chicago this weekend, I crafted a response:

So this is our call to action.  What are you going to do to begin building a culture of civility in your community?

4 Reasons White People Can’t Use the N-Word (No Matter What Black Folks are Doing)

White people don’t like being told that stuff’s off limits to us.

At least that’s my theory for why this question is still being asked:

White Person: “If Black people can just throw the N-word around all the time, why is it not okay for White people to use that word?”

So in as concise a way as possible, I want to answer this question as clearly as I can for all the White people still asking it.

4 Reasons White People Can’t Use the N-Word (No Matter What Black Folks are Doing)

1.  We lost the privilege.  You know that whole, you know, 600 year time period when White people were buying and selling Black people as chattel?  Well, remember how that whole system was enforced by a violent system of repression whereby Black slaves who did not act the way the White folks wanted them to were beaten and murdered?  Oh, and remember that time after slavery when Black people were locked in a system called Jim Crow that used a similar fear of violence and repression to keep Black people in “their place?”  Well, in the midst of all that shit, there was a word invented by White people as a pejorative for Black folks.  It was used just about every time a Black person was whipped, chained, beaten, insulted, spit upon, raped, lynched, or otherwise humiliated and mistreated by White folks.

Thus, I don’t care how much White folks want to use that word.  I don’t care how unfair you think it is that someone else gets to use it when we don’t.  Our people gave up the privilege to use that word the moment we invented it as a tool of oppression.

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Taking a Stand: Why I Support a Woman’s Right to Choose

My original goal for this week’s post was to talk about how I respond to the question that I often get from White people, “Why are Black people allowed to use the n-word while White people aren’t?”  Unfortunately, though, in my preparations for my last 3 HOBY seminars of the year, I didn’t have time to get to writing that piece.  So stay tuned, as I have had a number of people say they were looking forward to it.

I recently had a young man reach out to me and ask about why I am such a vocal supporter of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.  He asked me if I would be able and willing to boil down my support for abortion rights into four clear points so that he could better understand.  I very much appreciate his interest in seeking more information and seeking truth, so I wrote him back, and I thought I would post my response here in hopes of inspiring some discussion around the issue of a woman’s right to choose, particularly considering the all-out assault on women’s rights in state legislatures around the U.S..

Why Do I Support a Woman’s Right to Choose?

1. Every woman should have the right to control what happens with her own body. For better or for worse, a fetus growing inside of a woman has dire consequences for a woman’s body and her life. Having a child can be a very dangerous physical change, and it undoubtedly will change every aspect of a woman’s life during pregnancy and after. Thus, a woman should have the right to decide what will or will not happen in her womb. It is absurd to think that a legislator or church or anyone should be able to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. As part of this point, it is important to understand that until a fetus reaches viability (usually around the 24th or 25th week of pregnancy), it acts biologically no different than any other parasitic organism. That language is SUPER harsh, so I tend not to share it, but the point is the same. If a life cannot live outside of a womb, it should not have rights that outweigh that of the woman carrying it.

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Are White Students Being Disadvantaged by Affirmative Action?

I notice that whenever I do question and answer sessions with young people (high school and college students), the same questions come up every time.  First, a White Man usually asks why Black folks are allowed to use the “n word” but he’s not (read my response here).  Then a White young person usually asks, “How do you feel about Affirmative Action? Because from what I understand, White people (particularly White Men) are actually now at a disadvantage in college admissions because of Affirmative Action, and it’s not fair that I will have less of a chance of getting into college because of what happened in the past!”

Ask any White person how they feel about Affirmative Action, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear that it is “racist against White people” and that it is “unfair” or “reverse discrimination” and that they oppose it.  Further, most White folks will tell you that they are, in fact, actually less likely to get a job or a position in a school than a Person of Color because of Affirmative Action policies.

This is not true. Not only are White people not being discriminated against actively, White people are still benefitting regularly from a system that was built from its inception by White people for White people.

You see, White folks will often tell me, “White people make up 72% of the American population, but they only make up 62% of those admitted and enrolled in degree-granting institutions.”  And the tricky part of that statement is that it is not false, not in the slightest.  It is, however, wildly misleading.

The Demographics of Success

Demographics are tricky.  In the United States today, there are A LOT of older White people.  Simultaneously, though, there are also A LOT of younger People of Color.  Thus, while the percentage of the American public that are White hovers around 70%, the percentage of traditionally college-aged folks is much lower: 59.7%.  The critics are right, though, that 62.3% of those enrolled in degree-conferring institutions are White.

Race % of Pop. 15-24 % of Enrolled
White 59.7% 62.3%
Hispanic 18.3% 12.5%
Black 15.6% 14.3%
Asian 3.5% 6.5%
Indigenous 1.5% 1.0%

Source for Population Demographic data, 2009.
Source for College Enrollment data, 2009.

White folks are STILL disproportionately likely to go to college despite formal Affirmative Action programs that attempt to recruit students of color.  Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students are disproportionately less likely to go to college, and the only other group with college-going rates that exceed their percentage of the population are Asian students.  But even that is misleading because to understand Asian success in the United States is also to understand racism.  After all, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act and similar policies that even continue today, for most of U.S. history, it was virtually impossible for someone of Asian descent to legally immigrate to the United States unless they had an advanced degree.  Thus, there is a disproportionate number of folks of Asian descent whose parents are college educated, but when you break down the data by socioeconomic status and ethnicity, low-income Asians are, again, disproportionately less likely to go to college!

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