This is a difficult topic — both to discuss with you, but also in finding the words to do so. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve deleted whole paragraphs and started again.
How do I communicate what I really want to say about this topic?
How do I make it relevant?
How do I keep it succinct yet powerful?
I’m not sure I’ve got it right, but I’m sharing it now anyways. Racism needs to be acknowledged, understood and challenged.
It’s time to talk!
How about a few examples of racist comments. Racism can be subtle or ‘hit-you-between-the-eyes’ bold:
Minimizing racism by comparing it to other issues:
“It’s true that maybe they’ve experienced racism, but I’m ________ (fill in the blank with any particular group) and feel like I’ve been discriminated against as well.”
“These people just need to get over it. I can’t believe they are still talking about this after all these years.”
And some are really ignorant:
“I feel disrespected as a white person. It’s time for me to stand up for my own rights.”
Racism is a topic that can alienate people — likely because they don’t feel like they are part of the problem, or they feel that racism really isn’t an issue. And, therein lies the big challenge — having people actually acknowledge that racism is real and that they need to play a role in eliminating it.
If you are steadfast in your belief that, “I’m not racist, nor do I do things that could be construed as racist”, then this post isn’t for you, because you’re not ready to be part of the solution — your mind is closed.
But, if you’re open to really exploring it then let’s begin …
We all categorize things — it’s how we sort our world and make sense of it. Good things over here — bad things over there. Similar things in this box — other things in another box. Even Sesame Street encourages us to sort our world.
We also categorize people. Yes, we do. All of us. Sometimes we assign them a description without knowing enough. And, if you think you don’t do that — you’re wrong.
We read a news article about a person and consciously assign intent or bias
We see someone speeding down the road and label them as dangerous and thoughtless
We dislike someone’s decision so, therefore, that person ‘just doesn’t get it’
We all do it. But, why?
It’s easier to assign intent to others which then justifies our own bias — the other person is either in-line with our own thinking and an ally, or their intent is misguided and they are an adversary.
By assigning intent without inquiring about it, we limit the amount of time we need to put into understanding someone.
Pick a topic, especially one that has a pretty clear line of delineation — global warming, poverty, systemic racism are three that come to mind. All three have some pretty polarizing viewpoints. It’s easier to align oneself with those who are similar to yourself and also assign blame or ignorance to those who are not.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a look at social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I wrote a Nov 2020 blog post about how social media platforms have algorithms that use Artificial Intelligence to find persons who are aligned with your way of thinking. Your clicks, swipes and pauses all help shape the opinions you see on these platforms. Social media builds your belief that many others think just like you — it’s a main reason why the platforms are so popular.