Former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho joined billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey on her AppleTV show, The Oprah Conversation, to discuss “white privilege” and America’s “caste system."
“I fervently believe that if the white person is your problem, only the white person can be your solution,” Acho said in a YouTube clip Winfrey played from his series, ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’.
Winfrey invited several white guests to discuss their privilege, their whiteness, and their racism. Winfrey praised some guests for recognizing their racism and biases.
The first guest, Seth, described himself as a Jewish man from Manhattan, New York who realized his own racism and wanted to learn how to become anti-racist. He pleaded guilty to the crime of crossing to the other side of the street when approaching a group of young black men in an inner-city.
“I realized that I couldn’t be not racist,” Seth told Winfrey and Acho, “I realized that I either was racist or an anti-racist, and I wasn’t — I’m not — an anti-racist.”
“Some stereotypes, remember, are true. But not all stereotypes, because they’re true, are detrimental. But when it becomes detrimental is when we start taking all these overarching stereotypes and apply them to our life without ever having a real experience,” Acho told Seth, “We listen to what culture tells us about a group of black people.”
The next guest, Lisa, talked about biases in the workplace and her experience as a business executive in San Francisco. Lisa admitted that she has perpetuated bias against resumes with ‘black-sounding names’ or chose white individuals over black individuals for promotions.
“How do we unearth and continue to surface these unconscious biases that we as white people have?” Lisa asked.
Acho applauded her for recognizing the bias in the first place.
“Now I think you have to take the next step. And what is that next step? Now you have to educate yourself. Does a name, does a skin color have anything to do with execution of a job?.”
Sherry, a mother from Florida who has a son that listens to rap music, asked Acho how to reconcile rap lyrics that include an expletive that was used to refer to African Americans disparagingly.
Acho said her son was not racist and explained that racism is a condition of the heart, the intent of the word being used.
“White people have always had rights in America, so when you try to take something from a white person, it’s fighting words. Even if you’re trying to take a word from them that they feel that they created,” Acho told Sherry.
Acho then said that in the same way that black people have changed the meaning and use of the expletive, Christians also changed the meaning of the cross which the Romans originally used to be shameful.
Seth then asked Acho and Winfrey about white people who still experience socio-economic struggles and questioned whether their struggles were negated because of their apparent whiteness.
“There are white people who are not as powerful as the system of white people, the caste system that has been put in place,” Winfrey responded, “But that person still has their whiteness.”
Sherry intervened and said that she still felt that white people had a leg up. Winfrey agreed.
“[Whites have a] leg up. You still have your whiteness," Winfrey added. "That’s what the term ‘white privilege’ is. It means that whiteness still gives you an advantage, no matter."