Racism Is Not Good for Us or Our Children: Understanding White Privilege

By Eric Herschman, PsyD

It is well known that racism exists in contemporary America and that has severe consequences, including on our youth. One recent tragic example occurred on December 11, 2018 when a nine-year-old girl in Alabama took her own life after experiencing racist bullying in her elementary school (Andrew Arenge, 2018). It lives on in stereotypes, fear, prejudiced views, and white privilege. Beyond these interpersonal biases, it is present systemically in institutional, historical, and structural dynamics in our society, which perpetuate power and advantages of the dominant/white group. Members of this group engage in everyday acts of discrimination and disrespect, often with minimal insight and awareness.  These microaggressions, subconscious actions, behaviors, and beliefs occur at all levels of socio-economic, educational, and professional status. Racism benefits those in power and as a result the concept of privilege should be recognized.

According to an NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll, a majority of Americans say racism remains a major problem, (Andrew Arenge, 2018). In that same poll, a majority believe white people benefit from societal advantages that people of color do not have. Complex, overt and subtle systems serve to keep racism active. However, people do not see themselves as racist and do not want to be perceived that way. Often, people are not aware that they grew up in a racist home or could unconsciously be transmitting racist views to their children.

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Parenting: Am I the Problem?

Sometimes, I can help parents with their troubled child’s behavior without seeing their child. No one knows inherently how to be a good enough parent. Our own parents can be good role models, but sometimes they may not be. The dance of effective parenting can be very complicated, with lots of variables to consider, yet. I’ve never met a parent who says to themselves, “How can I be a bad parent?” There’s lots of trial and error. I will address some examples of what I have found to be helpful to parents in making positive changes for a less stressful family life.

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