Once people start to learn about white privilege and America’s systems of oppression through history, they often ask, “Why didn’t I see this sooner?” It’s easy to overlook what we’re not looking for. Once you understand the phenomenon of selective noticing, take yourself on a noticing adventure.
1) Start by watching this Selective Awareness ad:
2) Then…go out in the world and change up what you notice. Here’s some of what you might look for:
- Who is and is not represented in ads?
- Who are your ten closest friends? What is the racial mix in this group?
- As you move through the day, what’s the racial composition of the people around you? On your commute? At the coffee shop you go to? At the gym? At your workplace? At the show you go on the weekend?
- What percentage of the day are you able to be with people of your own racial identity?
- Notice how much of your day you are speaking about racism. Who are you engaging with on these issues? Who are you not? Why do you think this is?
- What are the last five books you read? What is the racial mix of the authors?
- What is the racial mix of the main characters in your favorite TV shows? Movies?
- What is the racial mix of people pictured in the photos and artwork in your home? In your friend, family, and colleagues’ homes?
- Who is filling what kinds of jobs/social roles in your world? (e.g. Who’s the store manager and who’s stocking the shelves? Who’s waiting on tables and who’s busing the food?) Can you correlate any of this to racial identity?
- Who do you notice on magazine covers? What roles are people of color filling in these images?
- If you’re traveling by car, train, or air, do you notice housing patterns? How is housing arranged? Who lives near the downtown commerce area and who does not? Who lives near the waterfront and who does not? Who lives in industrial areas and who does not? What is the density of a given neighborhood? Can you correlate any of this to racial identity?