Jane Fonda on Ending White Privilege: 'We Have to Try to Change Within Ourselves'

Actress and activist Jane Fonda spoke about the need to recognize and upend white privilege to combat the many facets of systemic racism during an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon Sunday.

“Because we’re white, we have had privilege,” Fonda said. “Even the poorest of us have had privilege. And we need to recognize that, and we have to understand what it is that keeps racism in place — the policies, redlining, banking policies, mortgage policies. All of the things that are really making it very, very difficult for black people to lift themselves up. The policies have to be changed, and then white people have to understand the history that has led to this and we have to try to change within ourselves.”

Fonda notably showed up for the interview in a black sweater and black beret, an ostensible nod to the uniform of the Black Panther Party. Fonda was an outspoken supporter of and fundraiser for the Black Panthers in the Seventies, and, in the early Eighties, she adopted Mary Luana Williams, the daughter of two Black Panthers who could no longer care for her.

Elsewhere in her interview with CNN, Fonda said she believed the protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others weren’t nearly as violent as some of the media coverage has made them out to be. She said, based on what she’s seen and heard from other activists, the majority of protestors come from a diverse coalition of individuals and organizations that don’t want violence.

“I don’t know who the people are that are doing the violence, but I think what matters is, is that more and more people, white people, are getting it. When Donald Trump was elected [the] Band-aid was torn off and people could see very blatantly the racism in the country that’s always been there, but it was revealed in a new and more robust way to us and was encouraged by this administration. I think a lot of white people got it. … I realized I didn’t understand enough about the history of racism, about slavery and reconstruction, Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow, so for the last three years I’ve very intentionally begun studying.”

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