The documentary “I’m Not Racist…Am I?” challenged Wilson students’ previously instilled definition of racism and provided insight on the advantages that white people gain in our country. Each grade was required throughout the school week to watch the film and after the screening, students volunteered to voice their questions, comments, and opinions on the film.
Unfortunately, what I noticed that most students in my grade took away from the movie was the line “All white people are racist,” blaringly offensive and surprising to those who did not pick up on its rationale. Students taken aback by the statement hastily voiced their comments, quick to acknowledge their white friends, teachers, swimming instructors, etc., who would never discriminate black people because of their race. Those who did listen came up to the mic frustrated by their peers but willing to explain the line’s context.
The mentors in the documentary wanted their students and audience to omit their previous definition of racism as an act inflicted on others by an individual. No one white person can be racist, but they are involuntarily racist because of the system that they are a part of. Our country’s system to this day is designed to benefit white people, and because they are gaining these advantages, they are participating in this racist system. No one is accusing your single white friend of being a raging racist because they do not individually have the power to deprive minorities of their rights. They are classified as racist according to the film’s institutionalized definition.
This complete shift in interpretation is difficult for many, including myself, to understand and formulate into words after years of learning to label individual people who discriminate others as racists, and living in ignorance of the advantages or disadvantages some have in this country. The entire topic’s complexity and the many blurred lines that remain unclear lead to debate and disagreement over the definition in its entirety. Talk of racial inequalities and systematic injustice were not limited to the auditorium’s doors and discussion continued among students and in classrooms.
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