This week, I was kind of startled to see an UnLearn Week poster for white people. What do we have to unlearn about white people? What “deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes” exist? Apparently, that white people have no rhythm, they’re racist, they’re privileged and they’re rich.
We don’t need to talk about white people this week! We shouldn’t be talking about stereotypes about white people; we should be learning. We white people need to go to the events, learn and experience UnLearn Week. Do we really need to talk about the stereotype that white people don’t have rhythm? Well, white society has socialized white men to think they shouldn’t like dancing — that’s where the stereotype comes from. Shouldn’t we be talking about where it comes from, instead of the stereotype? It seems more relevant to discuss the way that white society socializes us into thinking it’s more for women.
Or what about the fact that we’re racist, supposedly? I think a good deal of that is simply a misunderstanding of racism. Racism is prejudice plus power. White people have a good deal of internalized racism. White people are seen as the default; most of the time, they’re just referred to as “people,” and one only needs to look at how racist many depictions of people of color are across so much media to see how racist we are. Am I racist? Unfortunately. Every day, I have more stuff I need to unlearn, but it’ll take a lifetime.
What about being successful, though? Not all white people are, but white people still make up 82 percent of the richest one percent, despite making up only 62.6 percent of the population. Chris Rock, a black comedian, once spoke on this. Out of hundreds in his wealthy neighborhood, only four of the residents were black. All four of these black people were famous — Eddie Murphy was one, for example. But his white neighbor was a simple dentist. As Rock said, “He’s just a yank-your-tooth-out dentist. See, the black man gotta fly to get to somethin’ the white man can walk to!”
There is also this concept called white privilege. That is, we don’t get systematically discriminated against for being white. Every president until our current one has been white. White representation in current Hollywood movies hovers at above 70 percent. Thus, why do we need to talk about white stereotypes in UnLearn Week? We need to go to the events, learn and reflect on how we treat each other.
Why do we have to be featured in UnLearn Week? We need to focus on the other part: “personal evaluation of attitudes and actions towards those with different cultural values” and increase our “knowledge of different cultures.” White people as a whole? That first part isn’t really about us — we need to unlearn those about other groups. It doesn’t really fit.