Last week, a Supreme Court Justice used an argument to abolish racial preferences in admittance standards for colleges. He espoused the mismatch theory that students are selected for the college based on their scores, and the scores seem to accurately predict who will do well in the school. Therefore, it does a minority student no favor to admit them into a program the tests say they are more likely to fail. The view he puts forth ignores the minority kids who are not selected despite even test scores and similar experiences which is still common place. Freakonomics had a chapter on how names associated with minorities lowered the chances of landing an interview where they sent out identical resumes changing only the names. We still have racial bias in our society.
For a long time, I believed in a racially blind society as an ideal towards which we should be working. I’m not in favor of giving a preference to anyone based on the color of their skin. I can look at my children and say honestly that I love them equally, and their race has no impact on my love or feelings towards them. Still, I can not say I am comfortable that my black daughter only picks white dolls because they are the pretty ones. When my wife and I talked about it, she pointed out my blindness to race is a “white privilege.”
When I thought of the term before, I always thought about it from the stance of I expect everything to go fine when I am pulled over by a cop. That I have received numerous warnings and no tickets is nothing but a funny bit of anecdotal evidence of my “white privilege.” I do not have a non-white friend with even remotely similar experience.
When I think about it with relation to my family, I am coming to realize simply being blind to the impact of race is not enough. For if we turn a blind eye to its impact, we ignore all of the impact of others both presently and in the past who did not. It is not enough to simply pretend it has no bearing on our choices because it probably does whether it is out right racism or a built in bias to surround ourselves with people like us in looks, speech or thought. If we are blind to the impact of hundreds of years, why would we not choose the people with the most advantageous resume on paper, even if the tests for most advantageous were designed to pick the most successful people from my culture? Would this be different from inviting a new player to join a game of monopoly when everyone else has been around the board three times? Even if the rules going forward are the same for everyone, how lucky must the newest player be to win?
So I now cringe when I see the calls for a racially blind society because it is a goal I want. I still want it. However, I am not sure it is a straight line path from where we are in history to that ideal. I see no universally just way forward, but I do see many on both sides of the issues pretending their path is the only right one, and their way is the only just one. I say all of this recognizing my wish comes from my current position of lily white privilege.
What’s more, I see the insidious impact of racial perception when I come into my daughter’s room late at night because she is acting out and can not sleep. I asked her why, and she said she was upset because a classmate was making fun of her because she was adopted. “After all,” her classmate said, “just look at O (because he is not Black). He’s can not be your real brother.” I was appalled that a kid would try to put her down for being adopted.
Of course, there is irony in using O to show she must be adopted because he too is adopted. I told her the only thing I knew to say, “most parents do not choose their children. Mom and I choose you. Most parents have to take the child they have and love them, but we picked you to be our child. If anything, it should be a badge of honor to be adopted because it means you were chosen. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about being chosen to join our family. I am thankful everyday that we chose you to join our family.” I still worry it may be hurtful to some children in the foster care system if she repeats that logic and a foster child feels rejected for not being chosen, but biological children aren’t for the most part, chosen either.
I just hated hearing a child use race to make a member of my family feel less attached to her family and by extension less valued by all. As a white adult growing up middle class, I am just not used to race being used as a means to divide or belittle a family.