Friday, June 4, 2010
The System Will Be Racist on My Behalf
Last semester I worked at an elementary school. One day I was substituting in one of the preschool classes. The thing about little kids is that they are always hurting themselves and asking for band-aids. And even when they haven't really hurt themselves they ask for band-aids. As I was wrapping one boy's tiny little cut finger, I realized that the band-aid was "flesh" colored. But not the color of his flesh.
Racism hides in strange places. Like in boxes of band-aids - or in the decision of the person ordering the school supplies to purchase "flesh" colored bandages for a student population that is 95% black. I'm sure no one meant to make such a mistake. It's just that white is the default and if you're not a person of color, why would you ever think the color of band-aids is inherently racist?
It's not like the problem couldn't have been solved by purchasing neon dinosaur designed band-aids, which wouldn't match any child's skin tone and would probably be more exciting for four year olds.
In a training I am taking for work, we discussed that even when an individual white person isn't a bigot, they are still a racist because the system will always be racist on their behalf. Tyree went on to say that the system holds racism in a trust for white people so that even when they don't use it for their own advantage, it waits for them, collecting interest. That advantage can be something as deceptively simple as the color of band-aids to always seeing people that reflect my ethnic identity in positions of power in the media.