Monday night, Baylor screened the documentary “I’m not a Racist…am I?” There was a considerable student turnout. The documentary was insightful and relatable for a large portion of the audience. However, the conversation afterward disappointed me, probably because I’m not a part of the audience who could relate.
Yes, I’m black and yes I’m aware that racism is a problem, but the experiences and ideas portrayed in the documentary didn’t resonate with me. The sense of acceptance of those experiences among the black students, was not something I could agree with. That wasn’t my experience with racism.
As soon as it was introduced in the film, I thought that the idea that “all white people are racists” was extremely radical and almost counterproductive. When society talks about an individual black person as a reflection of the collective based on a stereotype, it’s wrong and racist. However, it’s okay to say that all white people are racists because even if an individual isn’t, the group collectively is.
It’s easy to say that this is valid because stereotypes are not always based in truth, but when did the idea that every white person is racist become fact?
When the documentary ended students were asked to yell out words to describe how they felt. One of the words thrown out was “heard.” I found this a little ironic because as discussion continued, I felt silenced. I kept leaning over to a friend telling her that I had something to say. Every time I decided it was the right time to participate, something would discourage me. It seemed like whenever someone (whites and minorities included) mentioned an idea that was not sensitive or sympathetic to the experience portrayed in the film, they were shut down — be it a murmur, eye roll or a hand shooting up ready to tell them why they were wrong.
Although the film featured a couple different minorities, the conversation afterwards turned into one about blacks and whites, per usual. When a Hispanic student brought up this fact and ended her case with “it just seems like this was funded by the NAACP,” mumbles erupted and people were offended. I completely understand why someone would take offense to that, but at the same time, I can see why someone who’s unfamiliar with the NAACP would say something like that. The film focused heavily on the black perspective on minority issues.
I’m aware that a large part of my mindset probably comes from the way I was raised. While I’m not naïve enough to say that racism wasn’t a problem where I’m from, I will say that it wasn’t a problem for me.
There was a point in the documentary where a biracial girl had a conversation with her black father about why he never discussed race with her. In the conversation following the film, someone brought up the idea that it was like “her father never taught her how to be black.”
Is there a way to be black? If so, I missed that lesson too. My parents never made race an issue that needed to be discussed either. I wasn’t taught to work twice as hard because I’m black. I was taught to work my hardest all the time because that’s the only way you’ll succeed. I’ve never felt discriminated against because of my race. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do regardless of me being a black female. Black is what I am, it’s not how I act.
That being said, I do think that the film did a good job at starting a much-needed conversation on campus. It didn’t shy away from a topic because it was touchy and it forced the participants to be as honest and raw as they could.
However, I think that the conversation following shows that students need to make an effort to stop singularizing minority experiences. The issue of racism is not just black and white and there’s not one way that every minority experiences racism. As different as each might be, every experience is equally valid.
-Senior Rayne Brown
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.