Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Recovering Racist' Looks at the World through a Lifetime of White Privilege

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Recovering Racist' Looks at the World through a Lifetime of White Privilege

Article excerpt

Byline: Bobbie O'Connor

The screams of past racism echo through the centuries and bounce off the racism that is alive and well during the 21st century. I have come to understand that the "times they are a-changing and then again they're not."

Racism is embedded, though we may wish it were not, in the fabric of our nation.

It is a part of our legacy, our national policies, institutional practices and cultural representations - many of which still prevail.

It is what the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change and others call structural racism. (

The institute is working with OneJax, The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, the Human Rights Commission and other community leaders to change the story of race in Jacksonville.

In the course of our history, the white group enslaved African-Americans and other darker skinned human beings in a reprehensible manner. The economy of this nation is built on their shoulders.

There were no black folks' signatures on the Constitution. In fact, they were property - most of them did not know how to read and write in English and teaching them was against the law. I didn't see this in my history books.

When I really allow myself to take this in and consider what my ancestors did to a whole group of people, I know I am a recovering racist. How could I be anything else? I feel that truth deep in my bones.


What does all this mean in terms of how we live our everyday lives - where we go to school, our medical care, our employment and housing?

There are privileges we white folks have - not earned privileges - but just because our skin is white.

I know I have these privileges. See if you find yourself here:

In the morning when I stand in front of the mirror brushing my teeth, I won't think about how many times I will be disrespected that day because of my race.

My grandchildren learn how their race contributed to the making of this nation in every history class, not just during Black History Month. …

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