This week, instead of holding class, we were asked to go to Tim Wise’s talk, “Dear White America.” As he predicted, some of it was hard to hear, but I agreed with much of what he had to say. It’s true that, as a white person, I can hear about the experiences of black people in this country, but I will never truly understand them, since I will never live them. It’s also true that I receive advantages that I rarely notice, simply because of my race. There is no question that, as a country, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to race relations.
However, I would be interested to hear many of the statistics he was quoting broken down, not by race, but by the income level of the person’s parents (that is, the poverty level they lived in as children). In the area where I grew up (Rhode Island/Massachusetts), the majority of the lower-income families were white, of Portuguese, Irish, and Italian descent, mostly. Though I never studied it closely (mostly because I was a child), I believe that they faced some of the same disadvantages in terms of unemployment and access to education and healthcare as the black and Hispanic communities that Mr. Wise discussed. That is not to say that they did not also have some of the intrinsic advantages of being white, or that there were no race relation problems in the area. I just think that it would be interesting to compare those sets of statistics (by race and by poverty level) side by side and look for the correlations.