Parents in one Virginia school district are angry at a local high school for showing students a video about white privilege. The four minute animated video, called “The Unequal Opportunity Race,” was shown to students in connection with Black History Month, and some are not happy with the message they see the video sending.
Henrico County encompasses the northern and eastern suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. Glen Allen High School is in the town of Glen Allen, a community of about 15,000, and is one of nine schools in the Henrico County school system. According to U.S. News and World Report, the student body is 21 percent black, with a total minority enrollment of 37 percent. Only 12 percent of the school population is classified as “economically disadvantaged” for purposes of receiving free or reduced price lunch. In short, it sounds like a perfect place to ask white students to reflect on their “white privilege.”
The video in question was shown to students by an unnamed Virginia Commonwealth University graduate as part of the schools Black History Month program. It depicts racial disparities in America over time by showing runners about to start a race. The starter’s gun fires, and the white runners are off. But two runners of color are stuck at the starting line, as red lights appear in front of them, and gates keep them from leaving the starting blocks. As a “clock” in the background shows the passage of years, the white runners age, and eventually pass the “baton” they are carrying to younger runners. The baton is emblazoned with a dollar sign, and as it is passed, it grows larger, signifying how many white Americans have amassed wealth over the years, and passed that wealth on to their heirs. As all of this happens, the dark-skinned runners wait at the starting line, still blocked from participating in the race. Finally, when the clock hits “1964,” signifying passage of the federal Civil Rights Act, the runners of color are released to join the others.
Some parents in the community are outraged. Don Blake, whose granddaughter attends Glen Allen, said,
They are sitting there watching a video that is dividing them up from a racial standpoint. It’s a white guilt kind of video. I think somebody should be held accountable for this.
Kenny Manning, a student at the school, said this to local ABC affiliate WRIC:
A lot of people thought it was offensive to white people and made them feel bad about being privileged. Others thought that it was good to get the information out there. There is oppression going on in the world, and that needs to be looked at with a magnifying glass, I guess.
Richmond, Virginia radio personality, Craig Johnson, typified right wing media’s response to the video. Johnson had this to say:
Dr. King gave his life so that America would be a place where we are judged by the content of our character not the color of our skin. Now we have poverty pimps being led by our current president Barack Obama who all they talk about is the color of skin.
That must be somewhere in the right-wing media handbook: “always talk about what Martin Luther King would have thought.” Johnson and others who love saying things like that miss that King dreamed of an America where men would be judged by the “content of their character.” Despite what Johnson thinks, that change didn’t happen because Dr. King “gave his life.” In fact, we are not there yet, almost 50 years after his murder.
Manning says that he was offended by the video. He goes on to say that the students at Glen Allen mostly get along, and there were no racially motivated incidents at the school. Well, maybe except for this one…
Last fall, a racist song was played over the loudspeakers at the school’s homecoming football game against John Marshall High School. That school is predominantly black. The incident brought an apology from Glen Allen administrators, and a promise to investigate how the song made its way into the mix of music for the game. So maybe showing Glen Allen’s student body how good most of them have it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Here’s “The Unequal Opportunity Race.” Is it a fair depiction of white privilege, or is it designed to make white people feel guilty?
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX_Vzl-r8NY?rel=0] Featured image via YouTube/Google Plus