This blog is controversial because many people do not want to accept that racism is a problem. Too many of us ignore it altogether and we don’t acknowledge the sheer power it has over our country. Let’s take a look at some real issues with racism.
Let’s face it, in 2013 we experienced a lot of conversation regarding race. The shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson (which is very close to where I live) was a case that made national headlines and opened up the doors to conversation and to more hate. Race fulled riots broke out all over the country, protesters wanted justice, racist comments flew back and forth across the internet, and yet where did it all come from? This blog isn’t about Mike Brown in particular but I would hate to say his death was in vain. Whether you believe it was justified or not, I believe everything happens for a reason and unfortunately the reason may have been so that we could talk about the elephant in the room.
The truth is we all have very different experiences regarding racism. Some of us have been victims, perpetrators, or both. If you don’t consider yourself racist I would say that most people living in America have made a racist comment at some point in their lives or at least thought it. You may not want to admit it, but you have. I can honestly say that I have made some comments throughout my years. None of which I am proud of and none of which can be justified no matter what reason I thought I had at the time. To be honest I’ve probably made more racist remarks about my fellow white people than anyone else. I honestly believe that in the grand scheme of things the only difference between any of us is male, female, or in some cases both. However, anger has been my enemy a time or two.
How did racism even start? Well, I’ve been studying racism a lot these past few months and there are varying opinions on the subject. One theory is that many people of darker skin derived from tribal cultures…due to this the idea is that they were not as advanced, educated, etc as the non tribal people. Truth is we all started off in some tribe…the fact that some cultures advanced in technology, wealth, and the like are simply because they had the means to do so. As far as tribal people were concerned…perhaps they had it right all along. While others were building huge cities, wasting resources, and waging wars they were living peacefully off the land. They were surviving with only things they deemed necessary and there are many tribal people around the world that are still doing this successfully while we are wrapped up in new cellphones, paying an excessive amount of bills and contributing to destroying our world with litter and smog.
Either way there has always been issues that were meant to separate people. All around the world people have been dealt hands of discrimination based on sex, religion, social status, and any other thing that can be deemed different. This is a fact that many do not acknowledge. Any form of discrimination is not fair to any human being.
Now, back to race…we do not chose to which family, country, culture, religion, etc. that we are born to. However, we must embrace who we are as people. Easier said than done. Most children are not born racist. It’s something ingrained within us. As a child growing up in south city St. Louis I realized that I was surrounded by different people. My neighborhood was filled with Asians, Black, White, and Native American. By the time I was 12 years old I had encountered people from so many different countries, eaten a wide variety of foods, and even attended a Polish church. I loved my multi-cultural neighborhood and I loved St. Louis for the experiences it gave me. Despite my opinions the only real racist remarks I heard were at home. Initially my mother brought me up to believe all people were the same but when my father cheated on my mother with her best friend, that so happened to be black…I heard negative remarks about black people. When my first step-father cheated on my mother with my best friend’s aunt who was Native American it was negative comments about Native Americans. Which was ironic, considering that I have some Native American blood. This turned into a hatred for myself. I didn’t even acknowledge that any part of me was Native American anymore. I stopped asking my friends of color to come visit and I would usually only go to see them. I was afraid that perhaps my parents would say something racist. ***I can gladly say that my mother has learned from those mistakes. Eventually she let go of the racist remarks and realized it was misguided anger and hurt.
Fast forward to high school. In high school I started a new experience. I went to a school where white people were seemingly a much smaller group as compared to all the other ethnicities. This is when the tables turned and when I tried to make friends with the Asian kids I was snubbed by most. I didn’t speak their language, I wasn’t a part of their culture…I wasn’t good enough. I had maybe two Asian friends in high school. I can hardly call them friends as we did not even speak outside of school. The Hispanic kids…same way. One Hispanic male gave me the time of day, and one half Hispanic female. That was it. The Black kids, far more accepting but still I found myself confronted daily by a group of black girls that for no apparent reason hated my guts. I was called, “White bitch, cracker, whitey, etc.” I couldn’t understand why. Then a group of white “friends” resented my black friends and called me a n***er lover, etc. Aside from the heavy racism I dealt with a lot of sexism. I was devalued because I was a female and even more so because I was a white female. The only thing I learned from this was to hate myself more. Being white for me never seemed like a privilege it seemed like a handicap. I didn’t come from a rich family, I didn’t have any deep cultural roots or traditions, and it seemed everything about me was wrong. I was a white girl with big lips and a big ass. I was told I didn’t look like a normal “white girl.” What did that even mean? I was now of the opinion that I hated all races unless they were the few good people in each that were kind to me.
What I didn’t understand about racism…I thought what I had gone through was horrible. I thought to myself that white people must go through the same thing just as often. I was wrong. I remember driving around on the North side…typically not a “white part of town,” with a guy I was seeing who so happened to be black. I was stopped by police officers who so happened to be two white men. They didn’t ask for a driver’s license or registration (which was great because I had neither), but they did ask me if I was in danger. I didn’t understand the question. They questioned him about what he was doing with me, did he have weapons or drugs, etc. I started to realize what I had gone through was nothing compared to what minorities go through. The only difference was that in certain areas I was the minority. Still it was not comparable. I started to open my green eyes to the fact that I had overlooked the very obvious privilege I had overall compared to my darker skinned counterparts. I thought back to other instances where black students were treated with complete disregard by white teachers, how even restaurant workers waited on tables less often that were filled with black patrons. I still encountered plenty of discrimination by police and security guards but not to the same extent.
A few years after high school on New Years eve my boyfriend of color was walking home from my house, as he didn’t drive. He was stopped by officers that slammed him against their squad car and searched him with no cause. He was simply walking home. They harassed him for about a half hour. It was wrong and there was nothing I could do about it.
I saw more racism throughout the years, my black friends calling our fellow Vietnamese students derogatory names, ignorantly saying, “let’s go get some china man,” when referring to “Chinese food…though most places here are run by Vietnamese people, racist remarks against Bosnian people. Then Bosnian people toward black people. It was this never-ending cycle and it wasn’t one sided. However, it made me wonder if perhaps it was history that dictated this behavior. The same way I grew to hate myself for my appearance caused me to lash out a time or two. I have referred to things being “ghetto,” and even retaliating against someone calling me a “no good trailer trash white bitch (for the record I didn’t grow up living in trailers…not that it would make a difference. I know lots of people who grew up in trailers that are awesome people), but I called that girl the N word. It made me feel horrible that I could sink so low. I did wonder however if the history of black people in America is what fueled this racism. I thought perhaps the environment in St. Louis was unique compared to the rest of the U.S. I started reading statistics and realized that the average black american had a huge disadvantage over the white population. I let go of my anger from those select people that threw racist remarks my way.
With all that being said, I also started to fear more than I had in past years. As it seemed tensions grew stronger and the more conversations grew about racism I realized that because of the color of my skin I was a part of the problem and I was to some, “the enemy.” Neighborhoods that I used to travel through without fear I find myself locking my car doors…and fed right into the hype and became a part of the problem. Partially because I hated some of my white friends for their racist remarks toward the Mike Brown situation and partially because I hated being hated for things, I didn’t understand why I as an individual was being held accountable for. Partially I hated just not being able to do anything to stop any of it.
I have realized now for quite some time that the problem of racism in America is not only our fault more importantly the fault of our government. Race wars seem to be fueled in our primarily white leaders. Minorities are still being oppressed in countless ways due to the idea that somehow they are inferior. Black people are inferior only because the government keeps them that way. Where are the opportunities in growth for our black population in the work place? How many black people are CEO’s of fortune 500 companies? It’s not just black people either, it’s any minority. The schools in “non-white” neighborhoods get less funding, less minorities get accepted into major universities, and overall have less advantages over their white counterparts.
How can we stop racism? I don’t think it will ever completely die. Even if every single human on this Earth mixed and mingled with every other human and created such a mix of races that one couldn’t be pinpointed over another we would still let this mentality get us. We would judge people on anything else that made us different. I don’t know why…but it’s this ignorance that continues this behavior in all aspects of life. I’ve totally judged women that have worn really skimpy outfits or that were too skinny, or men that have too much body hair. It’s wrong but we do it. We in general as humans discriminate. It’s a shitty realization. However, we can try actively to remind ourselves that the actions of others do not dictate our actions. We can refuse to raise our children to be hateful. We need to realize that although we may have preferences in the company we keep and the people we date, we shouldn’t just downright refuse someone based on differences. We can make more of an effort to communicate with people and build friendships with people who are different and try to accept and love those differences. Why? Because we should and it makes us better human beings. I don’t want to be hated for my skin, for my mannerisms, for my personal beliefs…and I’m sure nobody else does. To let go of this superiority complex we have against all our fellow men and women would be a freedom that would change our entire world and lives.
These problems are so much bigger than race, but I think that racism is really the simplest one to fix out of all the ways we discriminate against others. It just takes some effort and some understanding. I hope that in the new year that each person reading this blog can take a good hard look at their behaviors. See how you may have as a man discriminated against a woman, and vice-versa, women against women, people against people. Let’s stop pretending to be ignorant and stop pretending we don’t do it. We talk about children dealing with bullies…but we as adults can be pretty awful bullies, too. It doesn’t look good on anyone and I am asking that you please make an effort to shed out of your bully gear and get in touch with your fellow human beings. Make some new friends, embrace those differences and use those experiences to impact our youth.