Sociologist Maggie Hagerman has been documenting white kids’ racial attitudes over the last decade and is observing a shift from “I don’t see racism or think racism exists” to “I see racism but I don’t care.”
Her research on the dangers of racial apathy serves as one of the strongest calls for our work at We Stories that we’ve seen.
Psychologist Derald Wing Sue explains this same shift and introduces an important concept: instead of a “conscious desire to hurt,” racial apathy conveys a “failure to help.”
Hagerman explains “that failure is twofold: it is not just a failure of action, it’s a failure of empathy — it’s the failure to even care about the persistence and consequences of racism in the United States. This “failure to help” — this failure to concern oneself with the suffering and humanity of others — is a powerful tool, used to reproduce and perpetuate existing racial oppression.”
This underscores what we know and see and fear. Left unspoken, unpacked, and unchallenged we who are not most impacted (white people) become numb and apathetic. We create a normal that accepts, allows, and perpetuates racism. Our children notice. And they do as we do. They fail to help too.