This article is the second in a three-part series meant to examine the reasons behind prejudice in entertainment and to explain its impact. Read the first one here.
Two weeks ago, we began examining the problem of white influencers promoting and failing to condemn racism. These types of scandals seem to occur almost every other day. Each time these issues arise, the common question people ask is, “why does this keep happening?” In short, white influencers are acting the way they’ve been taught to act. All systems of injustice are perpetuated by long standing mindsets and behaviors.
The reality is that white people and BIPOCs have been and continue to be raised very differently. Take the era in which our parents grew up as an example: most of their childhood took place right after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed. Racial injustice was at the forefront of most Americans’ minds at that time, but not in the same ways for Blacks and whites. Black households facilitated conversations about racism due to the direct impact it had on their lives and livelihood. White communities, on the other hand, had a range of responses to desegregation efforts.
Some white households took an active role in opposing integration, joining white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Others supported the cause of civil rights activists and made their intentions clear by refusing to move school districts or separate their children from Black students. But most white people fell into a neutral category. They didn’t support the actions of hateful groups like the KKK, but they never felt an urge to condemn them either. Even with the moral reckoning that the civil rights movement brought to white people, they still lived in isolated communities. Housing patterns enforced by racist real estate practices made it possible for white children to socialize with each other segregated from children with different backgrounds.
Eventually, children from this era—in both white and Black families—grew up, got married and started families. Parents teach their children skills and values based on what they know and on their experiences. Because most white parents came from households that did not actively teach the implications of harmful, racist behavior, some of their children adapted those harmful behaviors. White Millennial and Gen Z children learned about whiteness—meaning they were taught a sense of self that was untouched from an assigned value to elements of their identity. Conversely, Black children were taught about the implications of Blackness in relation to how others view them.
This striking contrast between individuality and collective identity created a disconnect between actions and consciousness of their impact for white people. We often expect white influencers to divorce themselves from these behaviors, but forget that they are a product of this system. Even though harmful racial stereotypes are not exclusive to Black people, this important part of American history sheds light on how widespread this issue is. This information is by no means an excuse for white influencers to avoid accountability. If anything, it’s more of a reason for them to educate themselves. It is important to note that excuses are reasons, but not every reason is an excuse. It is impossible to change if the root cause of an issue is not being included as part of that process.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer