Words Matter!

  • Whatever our racial or ethnic background, we all have biases. Our goal should not be to avoid bias or pretend we don’t have biases, but to be aware of them and make the choice to behave according to our values, in spite of our biases.

  • Racism is more than personal prejudice. Systemic racism is prejudice plus power. Most of the power in our society is controlled by the dominant White majority. The lack of societal power by People of Color (POC) makes racism a White phenomenon. Trying to make a case for “reverse racism” or “Black on Black racism” seems to be an attempt to divert attention from the reality of White privilege and dominance.

  • Be aware of the tendency for White privilege to be present in ways that most White people don’t see.  Without realizing it, White people often expect and guide discussions so as to help White people to stay comfortable. The tendency of some White people to get defensive about White privilege or Black experiences with racism is sometimes called “White fragility”and can limit the possibility for open and honest discussion.

  • Race is a social construct that categorizes people with certain “skin-deep” characteristics into groups and then tends to generalizes about everyone in that group. Racialized science seeks to explain human population differences in health, intelligence, education, and wealth as the consequence of immutable, biologically based differences between “racial” groups. Research in the sequencing of the human genome and in an understanding of biological correlates of behavior have found evidence that racial groups are not genetically discrete, reliably measured, or scientifically meaningful. Differences among people are the result of experiences and circumstances created by political and social systems and documented in historical accounts. “Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem is Real” provides anthropological and historical perspectives on social construction of race.

  • Microaggressions are “subtle but offensive comments or actions directed at a minority or other non-dominant group that is often unintentional and unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.

  • “Minorities” is a term often misused to refer to racial or ethnic groups. When talking about a population group it is best to be specific and name the group as they would identify themselves. Whether a group is a numerical minority depends on the context. In Ghana Black people are not a minority; in Sweden they are. In the United States this term has been used to minimize the importance of population groups, aggregating diverse populations without being specific about the ways in which they may be similar and distinct from other groups. What so-called minority groups often have in common is that they are marginalized with respect to political and social power in a particular context.

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