From the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:
A panel of four experts inspired passionate dialogue about race and privilege among the community of 140 attendees from Essex County and beyond at The Woodland on May 11 during the 17th annual Conversations on Race. The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race brought together a racially integrated panel that included: Khadijah Costley White, Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University; Demelza Baer, Esq., a Policy Counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; Jane Bleasdale, a diversity consultant whose research is focused on equity and inclusion; and David Troutt, Professor of Law, author, and founding director of the Rutgers Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity.
The panel shared their knowledge and experiences about how white privilege plays out in economics, education, media, housing, the criminal justice system and other areas of our daily lives. Panelists were asked to answer questions that ranged from giving the definition of “privilege” to offering suggestions for remedies to minimize the negative effects of unearned advantages in America. Panelists shared perspectives from their research and their personal experiences on the ongoing and profound disparities faced by people of color with respect to money and mobility.
For example, the unemployment rate for people of color is always consistently higher regardless of how well the economy is doing. Baer noted that people of color are often paid less—especially women of color. For every dollar paid to a white man, black women are only paid $.64 cents and Latinas only receive $.56 cents. “Unfortunately, the rewards of higher education do not accrue to people of color as they do for white people as recent black graduates have higher unemployment rates,” shared Baer.
For potential solutions to the problem, White suggested hiring people of color versus people who look like you, and if you are a journalist, try to tell good stories. Troutt believes we all need to be better informed and acknowledge privilege—we each bear responsibility since we are all not equally harmed by it. Bleasdale shared findings that teachers influence a student’s success more so than their home life or their aptitude for learning; furthermore, teachers are influenced by their own bias, their supervisors and their colleagues. She also encouraged white people to speak up in real time when they see privilege happening in public.
(Editor’s note: See the reports from the moderated table discussions beginning at the 51:51 mark in the video above. Participants made many points and raised questions including: asking about segregation and housing in the towns; the need for more teachers of color; questioning the different perceptions, language and treatment around gatherings of large groups of white teens vs. large groups of black teens, the use of language [saying “white power” or “discrimination” instead of “privilege”]; the desire to have more events bringing together diverse people for more conversation; talking about equality as not a zero-sum game; interacting with police; picking a colleague and being an ally; being aware of the subtle markers of privilege/discrimination; combining PTA funds from all schools and evenly distributing; working with children; where do we go next; and more.)
Although time was left at the end for moderated table discussions after the panel Q&A session, many expressed interest in continuing the conversation after the event. For those who wish to do so, they may come to the upcoming Coffee House Discussions on June 15, 2017 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at Maplewood Library. The theme, Race & Privilege: Going Deeper, will enable residents to share points of view and experiences about privilege, as well as develop action plans to minimize the negative impacts.
For more information on the South Orange/Maplewood Coalition on Race and to learn about upcoming events, go to www.twotowns.org or call 973-761-6116.
See the News-Record’s report on the forum here:
South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race
The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally recognized non-profit organization committed to building a unique, suburban community that is free of racial segregation in housing patterns and community involvement. The Coalition was founded in 1996 by a diverse group of citizens concerned about stagnating property values and a perceived decline in the quality of local public schools. Twenty years later, the Coalition has developed programs that promote the advantages of living in a racially inclusive community where all aspects of community life are integrated. To learn more about the Coalition and how you can get involved, go to www.twotowns.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.