Just because you don’t see something does not mean that it does not exist.
I have a friend who suffers from hip dysplasia and can not stand for more than 5-10 minutes without being in pain. By looking at her, one would not assume she was suffering at all. She has reduced her shower time to 5 minutes to avoid oncoming pain. She has told me that people don’t believe that she is as limited as she really is because she “does not look” the part – she barely limps, still walks to campus at times, and does not use crutches.
People are much more willing to believe in things they can see.
It’s harder to fight against something you can not see – for example, the Ku Klux Klan is much easier to dispute than institutional racism is.
I would like to clarify that I am not drawing comparisons between disabilities and race, but rather the close-mindedness and quick-to-judge attitude many people hold.
There are people out there who believe that all people in America, regardless of race, are treated the same way. However, these people probably do not realize that there are two types of racism: overt and covert racism.
Overt racism, as its name implies, is a form of racism that is obvious and intentionally harmful. For example, a racially-charged attack on a person of color would be considered overt.
Covert racism, on the other hand, is much more subtle and much more common in everyday life. Microaggressions are one example of covert racism in play. Microaggressions are communicative expressions or behaviors of negative prejudice, and can either be intentional or unintentional.
Some examples of racial microagressions include:
“You’re really pretty for a black girl”,
“You sound white”.
“I’m not racist, I have a black friend!”.
Covert racism also impacts people of color in larger, even less noticeable ways. As we have discussed in class, racism is built into the foundations of American society. Institutionalized racism impacts people of color on every level – housing, employment, wealth, education, criminal justice, healthcare, and more – on levels that white people may not notice if they are either not paying attention or not listening.
Open any American History textbook, and I am positive that it will spend more time on World War II than it does on Native-American history (pre-colonization). I am even more positive that most American History textbooks will not cover the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and how its redlining system has impacted black house ownership today.
Excluding the narratives of oppressed groups and instances of institutional racism is a form of covert racism. The less informed people are of these issues, the less understanding they are of how the issues have impacted minority groups. Privilege involves getting to be ignorant of these issues, because for so many, they are daily struggles. And just because they are not visible does not mean that they do not exist.