WASHINGTON, April 6, 2012 — A YouTube video of a young white girl lambasting other whites for wearing “I Am Trayvon Martin” shirts has gone viral, drawing the ire of several liberal Trayvon Martin advocates. In the video, which has gotten over 100,000 views since being posted on March 31, the girl, sitting in front of a laptop webcam in what looks like a hotel room, suggests that it would be more appropriate for white people to wear “I am George Zimmerman” shirts.
According to the young girl, she, like other whites, has been indoctrinated to fear black men. It was that fear that likely incited Zimmerman’s suspicion that Martin, a 17-year old who Zimmerman admitted killing in self-defense after a short scuffle, was up to no good in the first place. Police questioned and released Zimmerman without arresting him, which many perceive as an injustice and has ignited outrage and public protests.
The girl in the video doesn’t claim that whites shouldn’t empathize with African Americans, but simply that the gesture of wearing the shirts is feigned solidarity; white skin privilege means they will never ever truly have to endure what it is like to be an African American, suspected of being a criminal solely because of skin color.
By the end of the short three-minute 24-second video, she implores parents to do what her parents did for her and expose their children to people of other races, do their best to enable them to be educated among other people and to be more inclusive in their actions and avoid certain words.
She may be on to something. Parents of all races may not be giving their children specific instructions or guidelines on how to process race in America, but they certainly are sending messages through their actions.
For example, CNN revealed the results of a study it conducted in which children, age 6 and older, were shown images of two kids at the playground swing. One child was behind the swing and another on the ground in one image, with the race of the kids reversed in the other picture. The majority of white children interpreted the scenario negatively and said they didn’t think their parents would like them to have black friends. The black children didn’t necessarily see a negative interaction and were more optimistic and hopeful.
CNN suggests that the black children reached more hopeful conclusions because black parents better prepare their children for discrimination and possible race-related interactions. White parents, it suggests, are more likely to avoid the race topic.
But as African American children age, their opinions start to shift. By age 13, a majority of African-American children have a subconscious racial bias against white children, the study found.
When their children are youngest, parents of all races have the best chances of teaching them to be less biased, mainly by being mindful of their speech, how they indoctrinate their children to anticipate race bias when there isn’t any, and taking into account who they interact with in social settings and what unspoken and indirect messages they send to their children.
It seems we’ve been talking about race much more than usual. The races self-segregate, which can be expected as people tend to want to associate with those from similar backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities as themselves. But in doing that, we send subtle but loudly heard signals to our children about this very sensitive issue.
We can talk about these issues until we are blue in the face, but until we start altering our behavioral patterns, little will change at all.
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