Making Excuses

In the film The Blind Side while the “white” women were eating “$18 salads” at a restaurant, Sandra Bullock’s character asks if any of the other ladies had ever been to the “other side” of town after some teasing remarks, the one woman stated; “I’m from there, but with a little hard work and now look at me”. For me this resonated with the frameworks we discussed in class on Wednesday and how if “they” just worked harder they too could live the “good life”. It also brought to mind Trayvon Martin and the way that people have stated that “if he had dressed differently” he would not have appeared to be “suspicious or threatening” again; change and conform to white society and everything will be just fine.

I have spent a lot of time of late monitoring, supporting and defending my position on the Trayvon Martin murder and have received a lot of negative feedback from friends. Many of the reasons provided have been classic examples of blacks making situations racial that are not racial (or perceived as racial). I have been told that “we don’t know the whole story” and “innocent until proven guilty” and my personal favorite came tonight, “media bias” followed with negative pictures of Trayvon and one of Mr. Zimmerman in a suit. Another woman commented, “why do they keep saying he’s white?”. I cannot help but recall Chapter 2 in Bonilla-Silva where whites stated that “…if you are looking for discrimination…it’s there to be found. But if you make the best of any situation, and if you don’t use it as an excuse”. Why is it that if someone of any color, ethnicity or cultural background that differs from white, has a complaint about a way they were treated or something was stated that was insensitive, they are “looking for racism”?

If we continue to allow the frameworks of color-blind racism (abstract liberalism, naturalization, cultural racism and minimization of racism) to be the foundation for our own privilege, we will never see the changes necessary within society. It is our “problem” to deal with, no one is going to do it for us and no one is looking for reasons to blame us; people are seeking change. When will we as a society begin to see that no one “looks for racism” it just finds them thanks to the way in which our society has been devised? Are we ever going to allow ourselves to comprehend that anyone who experiences discrimination/racism does not deserve it and that to vocalize an issue and bring it into light is not “complaining or looking for a reason”? Why do whites cling so hard to claiming what is “theirs” and making sure no one sneaks past using the proverbial almighty white race card without having full proper membership? Zimmerman is white for the same reason President Obama is black, why is it that white’s are attempting to make him “a Hispanic”? How can we make the necessary changes if we cannot be honest with ourselves and admit that hard work will not always correlate to a better life?


2 thoughts on “Making Excuses”

  1. This class has opened my eyes greatly to the idea of “if you work hard, you’ll get what you deserve.” I had always believed that that was a true statement. I always thought that if I worked hard in all aspects of my life, then I would be successful in my life and I would get good things because I deserved them. I thought that this was true for everyone before coming to Muhlenberg and taking classes such as multicultural psychology and contemporary racism. Now I understand that the “if you work hard, you’ll get what you deserve” mindset does not apply to everyone. In fact, even if you work hard and you are white you will still possibly get more than you deserve. But as a black person, you will not get what you deserve even if you do work hard because of aversive racism and implicit attitudes. This class has really opened my eyes to the negative consequences of believing in that statement.

  2. Well said. “Don’t use discrimination as an excuse,” is really an ignorant thing to say. However, it represents a huge part of our society’s views on racial issues. This is a real life manifestation of the protestant work ethic: If you work hard, you’ll get what you deserve. Unfortunately, this attitude spirals itself into the widespread belief that minorities just aren’t working hard enough. I think the solution to this problem may lie in reaching out to the up and coming generation.

    The way to reach the up and coming generation is through social media. Although the Kony 2012 video was problematic in its own ways, it showed just how quickly young people can get wrap their head around a problem presented to them. Although the majority of these people did not physically do anything to help, they definitely came out with an understanding of the problem presented. In this case, we’re not NECESSARILY looking to find a way to get people to help in any way. We’re just asking people to understand. Perhaps that could be a real solution.

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