Visionary Poems from Our Community Dialogue about race and privilege
We wrote amazing poems to share our thoughts and reflect our conversation about race and privilege. Check them out!
Each of the poems was written by a group after they discussed a quote or story about an experience of white privilege. Thank you to the 87 people who attended the community dialogue and contributed to the poems. From age 12 – 96, White, African American, Latino and Asian, we all had a chance to listen and speak, share and reflect. It was a good day in Durham.
What is white privilege?
Access to opportunity
Everyone should have it.
Most of the benefits of being white can be obtained without ever doing anything personally. Whites are given the privilege of a racist system, even in they’re not personally racist.” –John A. Powell, legal scholar, RACE Exhibit
Privileged- not for you and me
Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government—through the Federal Housing Administration [FHA]—issued $120 billion in new housing loans. Less than 2% of these loans went to non-whites. –American Anthropological Association, RACE Exhibit
White Privilege is still here
Better But Not Done.
As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. –Peggy McIntosh from “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
Nascent Nation Free
Ideals promised, Not realized
The search continues.
We have a framework
We must reconcile the dream
All not reaching goals
Ideals make a good framework
Have to do our best.
Thomas Jefferson is in many ways a personification of America. He is a person with lofty ideals. He writes them down in the sacred document of American society, the Declaration of Independence. Those are the magic words of American society. Wonderfully lofty aims and goals. But like America, Jefferson does not live up to his principles. He knows it. And he is bothered by it. He is . . . he lives in a kind of anxiety, actually, between what he says and what he does. This is a person committed to human freedom who holds over two hundred human beings in the state of slavery. And he knows that that is a massive contradiction.
America is exactly the same way. I mean, we are a society based on principles literally to die for, principles that are so wonderful it brings tears to your eyes. But we are a society that so often allows itself to not live by those principles, to ignore those principles. And we are conflicted by that. –James Horton, historian and scholar, RACE Exhibit
To talk or not talk
To see or not to see race
Love is not enough
My race story. Well, I was born in South Korea, I was adopted to Minnesota, and I grew up in a suburb where it was very homogenous. It was mostly a white Euro-Anglo population there. My parents never talked to me about race. It was assumed that I would just assimilate completely.
I always knew I was adopted from Korea. So when there were incidences of race discrimination, racism at school, for example, and I would try and talk to them [my parents] about that, it was always dismissed as not being racist. So I grew up not having any kind of a language to talk about it. Because I think they believed that love was enough, that as parents they accepted me completely without any kind of discrimination or prejudice, and they expected everybody else to. They just assumed that everybody else would treat me the same because of who I was as an individual. –Rae Ran Kim – “We All Live With Race” Video
The first step of awareness:
Where I’ve had the most problems with my privilege and how to deal with it comes in the classroom and in group settings. And that one of the ways the privilege of whiteness has worked for centuries is that white people, particularly white men, have felt that they can simply take up as much space as they want. . It’s one of the things that Baldwin says– is that being white gives you the privilege of not having to be uncomfortable. It gives you the privilege of running away from situations where you might be uncomfortable.
And so, I say the first step is to say, I’m going to have to be uncomfortable. And I’m willing to live with being uncomfortable. And staying in there and feeling like, I should say something, but no I shouldn’t, but now maybe is the time I should. And then realizing that sometimes I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to walk out of that meeting or walk out of that classroom feeling either that I said too much or that I said too little. –Peter Rachleff, “We All Live With Race” Video
Little girls playing
Black, white, brown, yellow & red-
Humans, all of us.
We are the colorful bloc
People don’t realize that the more resistance you feel from the other communities, the more unwelcoming spirits come your way, the more you start to tap into each other’s resources in order to sustain and maintain yourself. That’s not what people see.
What people see is a bunch of black students sitting in the cafeteria together. They don’t realize that this is one moment you have during the day, you can nurture and nourish your spirit so that you can carry on. — Daniel Abebe, “We All Live With Race” Video
I walk with my face-
Black, white or Cherokee tan
But welcome your hand.
How can it be that so many well-meaning white people have never thought about race when so few blacks pass a single day without being reminded about it? –Patricia J. Williams, columnist and legal scholar, RACE Exhibit