Chapel Hill News

MLK speaker urges looking at internal racism

Children carry the NAACP banner down Franklin Street on Monday, Jan. 19. 2015. More than 100 people attended the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally on Peace and Justice Plaza before marching to First Baptist Church for a community service and more speakers.
Children carry the NAACP banner down Franklin Street on Monday, Jan. 19. 2015. More than 100 people attended the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP's annual Martin Luther King Jr. rally on Peace and Justice Plaza before marching to First Baptist Church for a community service and more speakers. mschultz@newsobserver.com

A UNC freshman asked the crowd at Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. rally to confront their own prejudices even as they fight others’ biases.

Police brutality and high black incarceration rates exist. But racism today is less overt and more covert, said Madrid K. Danner-Smith, former president of the Newark, N.J., NAACP Youth Chapter.

“Institutionalized racism still exists, but it’s not as bad as it was before,” he told the racially mixed crowd at Peace and Justice Plaza. “Institutionalized racism is one side of the coin. Internal racism is the other.”

Internalized racism means having prejudicial thoughts about your own group. But the psychology major said it’s impossible growing up in a white, patriarchal society filled with media stereotypes not to harbor prejudice.

“Unless you’re blind and deaf, racist ideals have come into contact with your psyche,” Danner-Smith said.

“I’m not saying you’re racist,” he continued. “I’m saying you need to face the invisible. If you ever assumed an Asian person had good grades, there you go. If you ever got nervous and crossed the street because you saw black people coming in your direction, there you go.”

“We’re all guilty,” he said. “We’re all guilty of adopting racist thoughts about our own ethnic group or others. ... But we have to figure out why we have them.”

Danner-Smith challenged the crowd to consider its use of social media and entertainment choices. Much of it glorifies negative behavior and stereotypes, he said, and it can’t help but rub off.

“All these dead black bodies that flood our streets, I wonder why,” he said. “And I hope you wonder why as well.”

“You are your thoughts,” he said.

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