On Monday, March 31, the Orange County Main Library hosts its annual Community Read.
As always, all members of the community are invited to come in and read a book together. This year’s selection is My Black Family, My White Privilege: A White Man’s Journey Through the Nation’s Racial Minefield by Michael Wenger.
Michael R. Wenger is a Senior Fellow at The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a public policy institution in Washington, D.C.
He’s also former deputy director for outreach and Program Development for President Clinton’s Initiative on Race.
Wenger says he’s been involved in the civil rights movement since college. Today, he teaches classes on race at George Washington University.
His book, My Black Family, My White Privilege, takes a hard look at how white privilege manifests itself in practice in American society.
Wenger says his journey through our nation’s racial minefield had been both personal and professional.
Personally, it started with his first marriage in 1970.
“I was married to an African-American woman from rural North Carolina,” he says. “She came to that marriage with two little girls, who I helped raise. Their father had passed away. And we had a son of our own.”
Today he’s married to a white woman. As a result of his former marriage, his diverse family includes three children, four grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
As a father of African-American children, he experienced how discrimination manifests itself in schools.
“What we found, with our children growing up, is we had to keep on teachers on a regular basis because they just expected less from our children, even though our children are extremely bright, and have been very successful.” 5
Later on, he says, one of his daughters faced racial and gender discrimination in the workplace.
“These are things that, if you’re white, you simply don’t confront. And most white people live in their own sort of cocoons and are not aware of the issues that people of color confront on a daily basis.”
Those can include trying to catch a cab, or a person being singled out as an example of their race.
Wenger acknowledges that things are significantly better than they were 50 years ago in the areas of education, professional life and political leadership. But we are still far from being a post-racial society.
He says the criminal justice system is a dramatic example.
“These are some of the things that I talk about in the book, and some of the things that I think, if white people understood more fully, they would be more open to the issues that we confront today.”
The two-hour event starts at 6 p.m. at the Orange County Main Library.
Wenger will be there to speak about his experiences, and answer questions.