By CORINNE VANCE
And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NAS, Mark 12:28-31)
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I recently finished my first year at the University of Mississippi. Being a freshman on campus was nerve racking and exciting all at once. Coming from a small town I was accustomed to classrooms with no more than 20 students, all whom I knew, and now I was being thrown into auditoriums packed with up to 400 students and I couldn’t name one of them. It was scary to feel so alone while being surrounded by people.
I tried to get to know people in each of my classes and would sit next to the people that I thought I had the most in common with. I was making friends and everything was going great, until I began my sociology class in the spring. All my classes before sociology were basic memorization or concept classes, but sociology was far from basic.
During the course of the semester our teacher, Dr. Snook, questioned our views on all that surrounds us. She made us go back to the beginnings of our lives and inquire about every thing we grew up knowing about gender: why do girls like the color pink, why do boys play in the mud, why do girls have long hair and boys have short?
When a child is born, the first question asked by everyone is if the child is a boy or a girl, and in response, if the child is a girl, the person usually comments on how pretty she is and how when she grows up she’s going to break all the boys hearts.
If the baby is a boy, that person will typically respond saying he’s going to be a big football player when he grows up. We also discussed social class and the effects of functionalism. We questioned the actions and decisions made by people in society and attempted to learn why these decisions were made.
I learned a lot while discussing all these various topics but I had had some general idea and knowledge about the subject matter already, except for when we began talking about society and race.
I am white and I have always known I was white, but if someone were to ask me to list 10 things to describe myself I would never have included my race. At the beginning of the semester we were asked to make this list without knowing what the list was for. When we began the lesson about race everyone was handed back his or her own list. Not one white student listed his or her race, every black student did.
This display blew my mind. Why did the white students view the color of their skin as unimportant while the black students considered it to be essential to who they were? In the society that we live in white people are awarded white privilege and are allowed to turn a blind eye to the effects of race. I didn’t list that I was white because being white has never affected me negatively or stood in my way. But if I had been asked to list 10 things to describe a black student in the class I can’t deny that I would have included their race.
This put a pit in my stomach and a hole in my heart. Was I like those awful women on The Blind Side who assumed the only reason Sandra Bullock would be treating a black boy with respect and care was for charity? I would have never considered myself a racist before this class, and I still don’t know, but my eyes have been opened to the realization that I have a racial tendency just due to being white.
Even though I’ve always prided myself on treating people equally who are of a different race than myself, I can’t deny that when I would look for a seat in my classes I would look for one next to another white female. The realization of this hit me hard and unsettled me like never before.
The black students in my class listed that they were black on their lists because that is a part of them that affects them on a daily basis. Our society has deluded us into thinking that whites should be treated as the hierarchy and that the people who belong to the racial minorities should be treated as if they are less than.
I believe this is crap. Whose to say that just because the tone of my skin is lighter than others I should be treated with more respect and feel comfortable about who I am on a day-to-day basis? And in the rare cases where I do feel outnumbered and inferior, all I have to do is walk out of the situation and once again I am considered the “superior.” Race follows people of color everywhere they go. Unlike me, when a black person walks out of a situation where they feel inferior they walk into another situation where they are still treated like the lesser race.
I am a Christian, and growing up I was always told that God made people in his image. I don’t ever remember hearing someone say, “God made white people in his image.” How did we become a society where we judge people before we even know their name based on the color of their skin? When did it become okay to forbid a black person entry into a sorority or fraternity?
How has it grown to be reasonable for country clubs, book clubs, schools, and youth groups to ban black members? When did we become so powerful to make these wicked decisions? How are we able to sleep at night?
I am not saying that I am perfect and never commit a racist act. I am human and I make mistakes. But I believe that I can expect to be treated as I have treated others, and I would want to be treated equally. Wouldn’t you? So, why not take a chance on making the world that we live in more accepting and diverse? The choice is up to you!
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↓ WATCH VIDEO ↓
The following is a video I made about diversity at Ole Miss. The video includes clips from my interview with my sociology teacher Dr. Snook and Kimbrely Dandridge, a junior at Ole Miss who is black but has put herself out there and forced people to look at her for who she is and not the color of her skin. Dandridge is extremely involved on campus and this past fall she went through rush and pledged Phi Mu!!!
Also, I recommend that everyone watch the documentary “The Angry Eye.” We watched this documentary in my sociology class and it was the cornerstone in my realization of the effects of racism. “The Angry Eye” is a dynamic and provocative documentary, showcasing Jane Elliott’s world famous Blue-Eyed/Brown-Eyed exercise in discrimination. The tables are turned on white American College students as they are forced to experience the same kind of racist treatment African Americans and other minorities have been receiving for years. In the documentary, students’ reactions are intercut with Elliott’s observations. The film is compelling and powerful; both for the participants and for the viewers, who are made to confront their own prejudices.
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