July 10, 2020
When I watched another episode of Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” he mentioned how the Jim Crow laws of the South refer to a stylized character in the minstrel shows. Although I have been aware of the term most of my life, I never knew the term was a reference. The origin of this character is lost to legend, but Thomas Dartmouth Rice made the portrayal famous from 1830-60. This stage persona eventually lent its name to generalized negative stereotypes of Black people. While the minstrel shows popularity died, Rice’s character was still known well enough to be attached to the southern segregation laws after Reconstruction in the 1870’s. Many of these laws were in force until the 1960’s and national intervention.
One of the conversations Acho addressed was about reverse discrimination. This discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. It may also seek to rectify social inequalities for the minority who have less access to the privileges of the majority. Seeing affirmative action as reverse discrimination became popular in the mid-1970’s. This point of view was a negative response to the positive gains made by Blacks in the previous decades.
Acho addressed another uncomfortable question, can you be Black and a racist. The email pointed to words, attitudes and actions that are derogatory. The response was racism is built around three main aspects: Power, Privilege, and Prejudice. While one might be prejudice, power and privilege have historically not been available to Blacks.
THOUGHTS: When I worked for the state, we were mandated to attend sensitivity training on harassment in the workplace. Harassment occurs as one makes a coworker feel uncomfortable. It was stressed that harassment came from one who was in power and directed toward a subordinate employee. This is the point Acho made concerning racism. It takes power and privilege to threaten another with our prejudice. When we acknowledge our power and privilege, we can begin to overcome our prejudice. Change is coming and it starts with you.