Jul 17, 2016

i think: racism

ok i was not going to get so heavy right off the bat but WHAT IS UP, AMERICA? we need to have this conversation daily until we fix this shit.

i think if you're white, you're racist. it's ok! (it's not ok to BE racist, it's ok to admit we are.)

you can read multiple studies that show white people have conscious or subconscious biases against people of other races -- easy to find online. OR you could just listen to a black person and believe them.

i get it, it's so uncomfortable to think about how you might be kind of a bad person. but you know what else is uncomfortable? being black in america. so i think we can stand being uncomfortable for a few minutes.

and i don't believe that most of us have hate in our hearts -- most of our biases come from ignorance. we were raised in a society that shows us over and over and over again that the lives of people of color are worth less than white people's lives. it's a big, complicated thought-habit to break.

here's something that i try to do whenever i'm interacting with someone who doesn't look like me (this works for skin color, ability, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, etc.) -- i think to myself, "i probably have some assumptions about this person. i wonder what they are."

you might be surprised or even downright ashamed about what comes up, but that's ok too! we're all a product of our environment, and hey, back when we were cavemen, we had to make snap judgments all the time to avoid getting eaten by a sabertooth tiger. but now that our species has evolved and tigers aren't around every corner, we can check those assumptions against reason and logic, and then we can dismiss them because they don't make sense.

assumption-free is a great place to start when interacting with someone.

for any readers of this blog who think, "ok, but my assumptions are often confirmed," note that our brains always look for patterns that reinforce our beliefs and dismiss the things that don't fit in. you might not even be registering all the evidence to the contrary.

also i hope you know that cultures (and our perceptions of them) don't exist in a vacuum. for example, i'll take a common stereotype racists have of black people: they're lazy. but white people have systemically prevented black people from obtaining the same level of education, employment, and wealth for centuries. we have repeatedly shown generation after generation that it doesn't matter what they do, they can't have the things we have.

don't they therefore have to work 10 times harder to overcome the obstacles we've put in their way? and you might see someone who's just trying to survive or who can only work five times as hard, and you'll call that lazy. you know who's lazy? some white people. and some black people. all types of people can be lazy. some cats are lazy! if you think color of skin has anything to do with it, that's called ignorance and you can fix it by learning. i mean ask yourself: are you slightly lazier when you're tan? that's how much sense that makes.

here are some easy ways to learn:
  1. follow some black feminists on twitter (if you're not already a feminist, kill two birds with one stone! also learn about white feminism.) and when they say something that makes you uncomfortable, try not to get defensive and just listen and believe them. my faves:
  2. read some books and articles on racism
  3. watch a documentary on racism
  4. engage in black communities and black culture, and when you do, just shut up and listen with an open mind and open heart
i hope all this is super obvious to my friends. i've surrounded myself with some very conscientious people, and i like to consider myself pretty thoughtful, yet i have to work constantly at battling the biases i was raised with. but that's nothing compared to the work people have to do to battle them from the other end. 

so step up and try to be less racist, my fellow crackers. and people of color: if i'm off about any of this, please let me know. i want to get it right.


No comments: