Author: Zaid Jilani

What Does Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Actually Accomplish? Not What You Might Think (Or Hope)

I recently attended a Washington-D.C. event focused on community-building hosted by The Aspen Institute’s Weave project, which works to reduce social isolation and build bonds between Americans. During one portion of the event, various activists described how racism had impacted their lives and their communities. Following a number of such testimonials, a white woman from southeast Ohio named Sarah Adkins spoke about her own community work, which involves raising money to provide post-trauma support to individuals affected by tragedies. Perhaps because several speakers had discussed racism and issues related to white privilege, Adkins spoke about her own self-perceived racial privilege. “I followed the perfect mold…I did all the things, I went to college, and I keep thinking of white privilege in my head so forgive me, that’s what’s in my head right now, very much white privilege,” she said, while reflecting on her middle class life in an affluent neighborhood. But Adkins also went on to describe the reason she originally had become involved in community work—which is that her then-husband had killed both of …

Why Does Ralph Northam Deserve No Mercy?

Over the past week, Virginia’s Democratic Governor, Ralph Northam, has been engulfed in a firestorm. It follows the publication of a medical-school yearbook page of his that shows two individuals, one dressed in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. It is not clear from the photo whether Northam is one of these two individuals, or why he chose to include this image on his yearbook page. Upon the revelation of the photograph, the Governor issued a lengthy apology for the content of the page, which was published 35 years ago. He said he was “deeply sorry,” and called the costume “clearly racist and offensive.” He promised the people of Virginia that he would make amends: “I accept responsibility for my past actions and I am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.” Virginia’s state Senate Minority Leader, Richard Saslaw (a Democrat), issued a statement noting that Northam has opppsed racism as a public official, and that his behaviour from decades ago simply had no relation to who he is now: …

To Honor Murder Victims, Stop Fixating on the Race of Their Killers 

On December 30, a 7-year-old Houston girl named Jazmine Barnes was killed in a drive-by shooting. Witnesses to the crime, including family members, pointed out that a white man in a pick-up truck had fled the scene. This became the profile authorities used to pursue the shooter. Witness testimony often is unreliable, but it is perfectly valid for such accounts to serve as the basis for a police search. The tip soon took on a life of its own, however, when a plethora of liberal celebrities and activists jumped to the conclusion that Barnes, an African American girl, had been murdered by a white man consumed by racism. The story soon was being treated as a “national story about race and violence.” A lawyer for the victim’s family stated that there could be no rationale for the killing “other than hate.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights definitively claimed that Barnes had been killed when “a white gunman fired into her mother’s care.” It used the hashtag #SayHerName, a throwback to a Black …