Racism is More Than Just Name-Calling
A lot of times I find that people are confused about what racism is. “People call me names too and I don’t whine about it.” is a common thought. So, what is the big deal? Why is racism so important? Why are we touchy about it and why does it require so much discussion? Well, to get to the bottom of these questions, we really have to understand the way that racism works. Yes, it is name-calling, but it’s also much, much more. To call someone names, “four-eyes” for example, is mean-spirited and leaves the individual feeling self-conscious, and often times left out of the activity. But for many of us, even when the action is repeated again and again, it might not quite qualify at the level of true bigotry.
What makes racism (and a few other -isms ) so unique, is the fact that one section of the population is able to use their position and influence to wield power over the other. This means that ‘minorities’ won’t have the same rights and powers as individuals within the majority (the group in power). And since the majority holds most of the positions in just about any field from business, to healthcare and education, it can present daunting challenges in finding jobs, getting equal access to necessary services, and fair treatment. Why? Because, whether we like to admit it or not there is a systematic exclusion taking place. This is why many community leaders may seem to be pushing a decidedly ‘Black’ or ‘Latino’ agenda. It’s not because white people aren’t valued, but on the contrary, it’s necessary because people of color are underrepresented in positions of leadership and therefore become victims of bias or one-sided governing.
This is something we might tend to participate in and isn’t always the result of forcibly pushing out minorities, but more advocating for our own race and avoiding minorities for fear of the differences that lie between us. Another group entirely, are many of us who aren’t trying to exclude at all, but are just unsure of what the stakes are or how to solve the problem. We’re idle in a sense…not understanding the whole situation or what side of the line to stand on. This, I can understand. For me, I crossed that border long ago. Seeing both sides of the story can help to create awareness. As we examine situations more deeply we begin to see the mechanisms driving our actions. Not all of them are purposeful, but we still need to be actively aware and prevent biases when we come across them. As easy as it is to see that each person has their opinions and perspectives molded by the community that they grow up in. It should also be easy to realize that those perspectives can sometimes lead us to view others a little differently than we view those within our group. These perceptions can grow…become stereotypes…determine the ways in which we treat people…and eventually branch out to become racism. It becomes such a problem that it impedes the rights of others and becomes much, much more than simple name-calling.
Why is it upsetting? Because for many, finding a way out can feel impossible…there’s looking into your little one’s eyes and wondering how you will provide their meals, their medical care, housing, etc. So there is a lot at stake. Being there myself since marrying my husband…it’s very personal. Now, some places, some people are definitely more progressive than others. There have been great strides against racism…but we also have to acknowledge that there are some places, some people in this country who still live just as backward as the day it began.