For class last week we read “Whiteness as Property” by Cheryl Harris, and one of the quotes that stood out most to me was that “rights were for those who had the capacity to exercise them” (Harris 118). Harris explains that this “capacity” is clearly determined by race and one’s status in society. What I find hypocritical is that whites concluded that people of color did not have the competence for exercising their rights, yet it was white laws and attitudes towards blacks that rendered them unable to have proper freedom in society. As Harris mentions, many white people believed that nature had determined the degraded status of blacks. In this way, they avoided any sort of blame or responsibility for how blacks were treated. People throughout history have justified racism by placing the blame elsewhere and somehow deducing that other races are less than human or unable to think intelligently. This then turns into a cycle because other races are more oppressed by society and laws, and whites in turn continue to believe that people of color are less capable of exercising their rights.
I think a good present-day example of this is housing segregation. Black people often live in poorer neighborhoods with lower incomes, which then makes it more difficult for children to attend better schools and get better-paying jobs. Generally speaking, minorities often have a more difficult time finding jobs, and one even has a better chance of being offered a job if one has a “white” sounding name. And yet, some whites believe that it is minorities being lazy or not doing their best to reach their full potential that leads them to lower pay and worse housing and schools. We have discussed white privilege in class and how many whites defend themselves by saying that they have worked hard all their lives and deserve what they have. What many do not understand is that minorities have to start from a more disadvantaged place. It is difficult to get into a very good school that provides a useful education when one does not have the resources to attend such a school. Racism has made it difficult for minorities to achieve equal status with white people, even today. Today’s leaders need to work to bring more opportunities to those who do not have the advantage of being white.