8 Min Read

Why is it so hard for well-meaning white folks to embrace the sort of societal changes that problem solvers have sought for over a century? 

One thing that COVID-19 has reminded us of is that many of us tend not to believe in the existence or severity of a problem or issue until it personally impacts us.

Former Presidential candidate Herman Cain is a perfect example. He had been on Twitter and proclaiming on his television program for months that COVID was a hoax and that the whole  “just wear mask” business was nonsense. That was until he got infected, after which his tweets were all deleted. Sadly, he died. 

The same thing happened with Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. He was by all measures anti-gay. He supported anti-gay legislation and was on record as saying that marriage was only between a man and a woman. Then his son, whom Senator Portman loves dearly, announced he was gay. 

Shortly after, Senator Portman reversed his positions on the gay community and came out in support of gay marriage. It took impact at home for Senator Portman to realize that gay people were deserving of human dignity and love like the rest of us. 

So it is with racism. We walk through our lives with very little interaction with the Black experience. We see from time to time violence hitting a Black community on the news, but we subconsciously sweep it under the rug. We say:

It’s not in my neighborhood. 

It’s not impacting me. 

It’s not impacting my kids college entrance exams. 

Most of us don’t consciously feel negative feelings about people based on color. We may even have caught ourselves using the word “colorblind” or the phrase “I don’t see color.” 

Because of the fact that we don’t experience racism, many of us tend to lessen its severity or in some cases believe it isn’t a pervasive issue. 

It’s the reason why some Jews have been heavily active in civil rights causes. While our American experience is by no means the same as the Black experience, we at least understand the concept of being treated differently because. 

That is why education and engagement are so important. It’s why school reform is needed so badly. It’s why ending segregation after five o’clock will help eradicate systems of racism. 

When we know each other. When we understand what ails each of us. We can then appreciate the depth of each other’s experiences. 

Believe me folks, the “it only exists if it impacts me” approach doesn’t work. Not with COVID. Not with having a gay son. And not with racism. 

Question For You: Have you ever had an experience which led you to change your perspective on an issue? What did you discover about yourself?


Jeffrey Kass - Author

About Jeffrey Kass

Jeffrey Kass is an award-winning author and thought leader on race and society. His “traumedy” stories and articles have engaged readers on issues of race, religion, society and relationships. Jeffrey’s stories have not only won numerous writing awards and finalist showings, his story “Staycation” was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize literary award. His recent book, Oreos and a Pack of Marlboro Lights has been one of its publisher’s (Adelaide Books) best sellers since its release in July 2019.