One big happy family.Shutterstock
By Christian Lander | Originally Published at Quartz. August 29, 2014
A few years ago, I wrote about white people and their love of “awareness” on my blog Stuff White People Like. The post talked about how white people loved awareness because it was an easy way to feel like they were making a difference without having to make any real sacrifices. After all, curing cancer is exceptionally hard, but raising awareness of cancer is exceptionally easy. Both make you feel good about yourself, but only one requires you to be good at math.
White people just want to feel good about ourselves while at the same time making sure other people know that we’re doing our part. That’s why ribbon campaigns, rubber bracelets, and more recently, the ice bucket challenge have been such big successes. Not only do these things raise awareness but they take a minimal amount of effort and allow us to call attention to ourselves and our altruistic deed.
It’s safe to say the idea of anonymous charity died with the selfie.
All kidding aside, anything that helps to raise money to cure diseases that decimate lives is a good thing—the problem is that these diseases don’t need any more awareness. We all know diseases are bad—they end lives, cripple careers, and destroy families. So to waste all of our awareness-time on them is a bit foolish, especially when there are so many other things in this country where “awareness” could actually bring about real and lasting change.
In light of the recent events in Ferguson, there are few things that this country needs to be aware of more than what it’s like to be a black, male teenager. Our complete lack of understanding, or even a willingness to try understand on the part of whites is one of the key reasons why racial tensions in this country are so high.
I wish I could help here, but I’m a white, upper middle class writer with little to no experience as a black teenager. However, since I’m willing to dump a bucket of ice water on my head to raise awareness for ALS, there has to be something I can do.
I need to create a challenge, something that people can post to social media that will show that there is a double standard in this country, that we do get treated differently based on the perceptions of our race. It can’t require too much work, money, or effort and it has to draw attention to the good deeds being done by the person participating.
A bracelet seems trivializing, dressing up as a black male teenagers is offensive, and will probably do more harm than good. What made The Ice Bucket empathyeducates – Here’s the New Meme for White People: