Language, Thought, and White Privilege

I am not an expert in race. I am not an expert in anything, really—just a dilettante in a number of areas that I find interesting. One of those areas—language—has been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve reflected on the ongoing crisis in race relations we have in this country.

languageAs our news and social media are filled daily with continuing evidence that racism and intolerance are alive and well in America, some long overdue conversations about White Privilege and systematic racism have been taking place with increasing frequency. But as these conversations take place, it becomes clear that most of us do not realize how deeply ingrained our system of racial injustice runs. It goes far beyond explicit, intentional actions of the kind we witnessed with horror in Charleston, South Carolina last week. That kind of explicit racial hatred is easy to spot and those who insist that we live in a post-racial society will try to claim that such incidents are anomalies.  The system of racial injustice even goes beyond the institutionalized systems that privilege one racial group over another. The pattern of injustice goes right to our very thinking.

Some of us are aware of the implicit biases we have and the implicit associations we make with one racial or ethnic group or another. Others of us can, often to our horror or shame, take an online test to find out what our implicit associations are.  But we needn’t go to the lengths of taking an online test to discover our implicit biases and associations; our language betrays those for us already. Continue reading