Does Whiteness Negatively Affect the African-American Community? By. Reginald Mathes, MPA

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Growing up in a Southeastern region of the United States of America, I repeatedly heard my father vent about Whites literally walking through him while simply walking down the sidewalk. He would vent about how his existence seemed invisible in the eyes of Whites. Is he racist? No. Am I racist? No. I finally experienced this in an airport in Connecticut when I bumped shoulders with a citizen of the majority race. It was as if he did not even see me. I looked back and he was looking back as if I was in the wrong. Instantly, I understood what my father was talking about over the years. While pursuing doctoral studies, I discovered two concepts for what my father was ranting about. I argue that the lack of acknowledgement of my father’s existence by whites rest in the unconscious habits of racial privilege and Whiteness that Shannon Sullivan’s book titled Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege (2006). Sullivan (2006) explores her claim of whiteness as ownership of the earth. Maybe this is the reason my father and I experienced a lack of existence acknowledgement.

Perhaps, we can gain an understanding of the Whiteness and institutional racism that is embedded in America by understanding Sullivan’s (2006) quote that states “One of the hiding places of the terror of whiteness is white people’s blithe ignorance of race and racism” (p.127). Furthermore, I actually thought my dissertation title regarding the lived experiences of African-American students at PWIs was irrelevant until the Trayvon Martin incident in Florida. A few months later, I discovered that my research areas regarding Eurocentric thought, institutional racism, Black identity and White identity development are vital to the uplift of the African-American community. Michael Brown’s assassination in Ferguson, MO confirmed the fact that my dissertation theme is relevant.

I argue that Whiteness affects the lives of African-Americans and perpetuates Black inferiority. In addition, I argue that the perpetuation of Black inferiority leads to Black on Black crimes, fatherless Black children, uneducated Black men and women and increased poverty rates in our communities. It is essential that we as citizens of America, understand the significance of human brotherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Whites are not pulling the triggers of guns in Chicago that led to the recent despicable amounts of Black men, women, and children being killed in Chicago. However, I argue that institutional racism that was ingrained in American society after slavery ultimately leads to the nihilism in the Black community that Dr. Cornell West discusses in his book titled Race Matters (1994). It is essential that Whites in America understand the importance of White racial identity development.

The dangerous thing about Whiteness is that it’s invisible. It is essential that our young Black youth understand that there was a system put in place after slavery to keep them from accomplishing the American Dream. I contend that we as a people in America, Black and White wake up and strive for the universal human brotherhood that Sullivan (2006) discusses in her literature. By the way she is White.