What My Race Relations Class Taught Me

When I was scheduling my classes for the spring semester of 2016, I ended up enrolling in a Social Work class called Race Relations. I needed another class, and this one fit my schedule and knocked out a few general education requirements, so I took it. Little did I know this class would be the most eye opening experiences I would have to date. I took so much away from this class and it taught me many valuable lessons that are needed in today’s society.

One of the first things we did in this class was talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. Going into this class, I didn’t really understand the movement and why it couldn’t be called All Lives Matter. All lives do matter, and this movement is not downplaying any other race’s lives value at all. So many black lives were taken by police brutality in the summer of 2015. This sparked the movement, reminding us that Black Lives Matter, because there is lots of substantial evidence that this is something that seems to be forgotten. The supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement saw indecency and discrimination, so they began a movement to stand up for justice. Yes, all lives matter, but this movement is simple a reminder that Black Lives Matter too.

In this class, we had to write a journal at the end of the semester about the hardest thing in this class this semester. The hardest thing I learned was coming to terms with the concept of white privilege. Walking into this class, I never thought white privilege was a thing. But, it is. Because I am white, I never noticed white privilege because it is all I have ever known. Just because I am white, I have so many more opportunities and abilities I never noticed and that people of color will never have. If I open a magazine or watch TV, the models and actors are more often than not white. If I am pulled over or stopped by a police officer, they do not automatically assume I am carrying a gun or will react violently. My United States citizenship has never been questioned. I can get a job without people assuming it was because of affirmative action. All these things I have never noticed as privilege are white privilege. I almost felt stupid once I had this realization, but how could I notice something I had known my whole life? In my class, we learned that being self-aware is the first step towards change. One of the greatest things I took away from this class was self-awareness of myself through my race.

A term often used in this class was “all or nothing”. On the first day of class, my professor told a story of one of her friends in college saying how black people broke into his car and stole his things. She told us that she responded to him saying “Really? The whole race broke into your car?” Her friend was expressing the mentality of “all or nothing”. This mentality is seen way too often in our world today. A prime example of this mentality is presidential candidate Donald Trump. Because a group of terrorists identity as Muslims, he classifies all Muslims as terrorists and wants them all out of the country and does not want to allow any more in. Because some Mexicans come into this country illegally, he classifies all Hispanics in America as illegal and terrible people. He states ALL Muslims are terrorists and ALL Hispanics are illegal. This destroys an identity group as a whole based on generalizations. We cannot put down a whole community of people based off the actions of some. If we did this with every identity group, all white Christians would be classified as mass shooters. Acknowledging this as a problem and not making strong generalizations about groups of people as a whole is the first step in stopping prejudice generalizations about others.

We read a book in this class called “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race” by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. She compares racism in our society to smog in the air, something we cannot help but breathe in. But, just because we breathe in this polluted air does not mean we are not responsible for helping to clean it up. This class taught me race is not something we cannot talk about. It is okay to acknowledge the differences in others, but it is not okay to discriminate them because of these differences. We need to talk about race to create a change. I think one of the biggest problems in society today is that we intolerant of others. We are intolerant of others because of their differences or the struggles they have overcome. If we talked about these things, listened to others, and became more tolerant of others, we could help clear the polluted, racist air of our society.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved this class and how much I learned from it. I learned that as much as we would like to believe racism isn’t prevalent in our world today, it is. However, we can step up and make a change. We can become self-aware, we can stop thinking “all or nothing”, and we can become tolerant of others who are different than us. I think a course like this should be required in all general education programs. It teaches so many great lessons that need to be learned in today’s day and age. The experience I had in this class was priceless and I truly learned so much. I only hope to put this newfound knowledge to work in making a change in the fight against racism in our society today.

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