Race and Privilege Topic Gathered Residents to Discuss Solutions for Change

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 at our 17th annual Conversations on Race. We 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. Many, many thanks to the panelists for their insights on this important topic!

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.

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.

 

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