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Nicholas Kristof’s ‘When Whites Just Don T Get It’

We aren’t racists, yet we buttress a system that acts in racist ways. ” stated Nicholas Kristof in part 3 of his series “When Whites Just Don’t Get It”. This series involves five different articles in which Kristoff explains that even though we have come a long way from racism in the past, it is still very much alive. A black household has on average about 6 percent as much wealth as a white household, black students are less likely to attend schools that offer advanced math and science courses, and blacks are arrested for drug dealing at three times the rate of whites.

However, the amount of attention that should be put on this situation is just not there. Kristoff wants to address this issue; he believes that more attention should be put on race relations and not less. These five articles explains how racism still exists and how whites don’t seem to understand that it still is a problem. Along with this, he provides several factual evidence such as statistics to back up his argument. Kristof begins his series by stating, “Many white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown… the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves” (Kristof 1).

That is the exact opposite of what Kristoff believes. He strongly feels that race relations need to be addressed and taken care of. This goes to show the ignorance of some people; white people are bothered by that fact that something that was very devastating to the black community is being talked about a lot. He goes on by giving statistics about the differences between blacks and whites. For example, he states, “A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy” (Kristoff 2).

We can see that even now the color of your skin can still determine many things for you, sometimes even life or death. Being a young black child, you’re born into this world already thinking that you’re not destined to go somewhere far in life. He also goes on and tells us personal experiences from his black friends. One of them told him that he never threw away a receipt just in case he was accused of stealing. Some may say that there is truth to this stereotype; most black men are criminals. That is true, but as previously stated, it’s a stereotype.

Why are we judging a whole group of people based on astereotype? We live in world that thrives on them. After receiving a mass amount of backlash from people, mostly whites, about his first article, Kristof felt the need to address the comments made in part 2 of his series. He rebutted three principal arguments that were made towards his first article. For example, he reveals the argument, “First, if blacks are poor or in prison, it’s all their fault. ‘Blacks don’t get it,’ Bruce tweeted. ‘Choosing to be cool vs. getting good grades is a bad choice. We all start from 0’” (Kristof 1).

Since when have we all been known to start off from the same place? Surely a young white boy has far more opportunities than a young black boy. Yes, some will make bad choices along the way, but that’s inevitable in every race. It’s a lot more common in the black community because “Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness, and internalized self-doubt” (Kristof 2). Another counterclaim made is “Look, the basic reason young black men are regarded with suspicion is that they’re disproportionately criminals.

The root problem isn’t racism. It’s criminality. ” Kristoff argues that this “counterclaim” is used too often, and all for the wrong reasons. Yes blacks commit crimes, but so do whites and this claim is just another case of classic stereotyping against blacks. The system is set up so that white boys will “win”. Personal responsibility does come in to play. However, when have whites took responsibility for continuing on with a system that revolves around inequity among races? In part three of his series, Kristof reveals that this generation is in need of another Nelson Mandela.

There are still injustices today that we need to stop ignoring. He profiles Bryan Stevenson, an American- American lawyer who fights for racial justice who just might be the new Mandela. “’We have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent’” (Kristof 2). Nowadays everything is backwards. With money, you can do almost anything. Money and race can determine how people treat you, the type of job you could obtain, and in this case whether you are guilty or innocent. Unfortunately this has become a social norm and we don’t do anything about it. We are not racists, but we accept a system that acts in racist ways” (Kristof 4).

We like to see all the bad that blacks do and say that they’re downfall is all their fault. However, we live in a white-dominated society who look down on people of color who are born on a path that often leads them to a life of bad choices. Kristof focuses on the common response he received in part 4 of his series, “’It’s time to move on… As whites, are we doomed to an eternity of apology? ’” (Kristof 1). Several white readers responded with anger because they felt they were being targeted and blamed.

However, they don’t seem to realize that slavery has had a major effect in our society today. For example, Kristof states, “The Federal Housing Administration and other initiatives greatly expanded home ownership and the middle class but deliberately excluded blacks. That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 74 percent for white households” (2). Another very vital point he brings up is white privilege; one part of it is that these individuals are not aware that they have a privilege above others.

Their unconcerned regard for past domination by the whites over the blacks has shaped the current drawbacks. In part 5 of his series, Kristoff explains that we are a nation united and we all need to come to terms that racial biases exist amongst every race, whites and blacks. The whites have something to say about the blacks and vice versa. However, “We focus on progress and are oblivious to the daily humiliations that African– Americans endure when treated as second-class citizens” (Kristof 2).

We tend to reduce blacks to a mere stereotype and don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. We can all agree that if you are white, your run-ins with the police are a lot less frequent and more professional than that of a black person. “White Americans may protest that our racial problems are not like South Africa’s. No, but… the black-white gap today is greater than it was in South Africa…” (Kristof 3). He tells us to stop denying and avoiding the facts and begin to think of ways to overcome these racial biases.

Racism is nothing like it was before, but it is still alive and needs a lot more attention than it is getting. That is what Nicholas Kristoff wanted get across in his five part series “When Whites Just Don’t Get It”. His argument is credible because throughout the five articles, he includes various kinds of evidence. He uses statistics, personal stories from friends, and quotes from important people. Someone who is born white already has so much more opportunities than someone who is born black. Therefore, instead of denying it, whites need to accept it and not take advantage of it.

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