This is my reply to Nicholas Silveri-Hiller’s op-ed as published on page 7 of this issue. A later op-ed will delve into some of the other important points of his article that this does not address.
Mr. Silveri-Hiller’s op-ed, starting with the title, makes sweeping generalizations about white people. For example, the statement that “white folks need to get over their guilt” and the assertion that white people “blissfully ignore” racism are unwarranted and not going to serve any positive purpose in the fight for racial equality
Mr. Silveri-Hiller also asserts that viewing 9/11 as the day of the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks is a product of white American privilege. Besides pointing out the fact that it is hard to see why one would consider having the painful memories of these attacks as a privilege, I would urge Mr. Silveri-Hiller to look at photos from that horrific day that show white and black people together. Look at their faces. Look at the horror, the pain, the tears, and overall emotional distress.
Is there any difference in the expression of these justified human emotions between white and black New Yorkers on that fateful day? The answer is an emphatic no. Many white and black Americans (as well as Asian, Latino, Arab, etc.) died or had loved ones that died in the attacks. Yet we are to believe that the thought of tragedy only occurs to white Americans when they think of 9/11? How preposterous!
Mr. Silveri-Hiller said that the “realities of racism” are “something that Hanrahan seems to not know about.” This is a false charge. I know and understand a lot about the struggle for racial equality and the realities of racism both present and past. The article was not about the “realities of racism,” in the way Mr. Silveri-Hill meant it, so there is no basis to claim that I “seem” to know nothing about it.
Mr. Silveri-Hiller also said that “It’s not only about seeing each other on ‘the content of one’s character’ but seeing the systematic and institutional racism that white folks blissfully ignore.” Is the “content of character” standard, as set forth by Dr. King, somehow inadequate? I still maintain that we ought to yearn for, and ultimately achieve, a society where content of character matters and skin color does not. Apparently, though, some still openly oppose the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream and would rather make accusations against an entire race to further some political goal and that is quite unfortunate. Perhaps that is what is wrong with the state of race relations in America today.
Mr. Silveri-Hiller said that “just as all women have reason to worry about a male stranger following them in an alley, so do black folks need to worry when they encounter white folk. There is a long history of racial violence that continues to this day.” This is a weak analogy. A woman being followed by a male stranger into an alley can hardly be compared to a general encounter between white and black people. (Do most people even consciously think about the race of the people they see or pass by all day long?) This isn’t exactly early 20th century Mississippi. Context is very important. Racial violence still does occur today but it is hardly very common or one-sided. There are white and black people in America who have a seething hatred for anyone with a different skin color and they will hurt or even kill others based on this racial hatred. But most white and black Americans do not seem to be racist.
Bill Hanrahan is a fourth year student majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at WH750431@wcupa.edu