Stirring the Mind into Thought

How many times have I heard someone say that and “I am not racist, I voted for Barack Obama,” or any other line similar to those two. One of the worst phrases regarding race that was ever created is the term “color blindness.” Unless someone is actually blind, there is no way that one cannot see what color another person is. I cannot actually go up to someone of another race and say “I have no idea what your skin color is,” because it is most likely obvious. We use skin color to describe everybody in so many situations that it would be impossible to say that. Yes, people often use it to say that they are not racist, but to me that term just refers to another kind of racism. Our society is so focused on race and pretends that it is not at the same time.

In our society color blindness does not equal color acceptance. It is a type racism that allows you to ignore or be oblivious to actual problems of race, refuse to have honest discussions about race, and be way too politically correct (it is about respect, not oversensitivity). Moreover, the “colorblind” term allows our culture to be more of a melting pot than a salad bowl. What do I mean by that? A melting pot means that I have to blend in and dilute my own individual characteristics and culture to the point that they are hardly recognizable; on the other hand, a salad bowl would be people coming together, still keeping their own individual characteristics and culture and would still be acceptable to mainstream society. However, our society expects you to fit perfectly into the mainstream mold and when you do not, you are punished or ostracized. It is not like seeing any color, it is a form of whitewashing (for lack of a better word).

Instead of honestly talking about the issues of race, such as not all races are on an equal level (despite many thinking this way and feeling that we are in a post-racial society), and that most of the problems in our society stem from the residual effects of a systematic social racist structure not individual flaws within a race, we like to tip-toe around it and do all we can to avoid it. James Baldwin said “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Admitting our racial/cultural prejudices and stereotypes and recognizing the social problems that still exist would help us to move on.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a sociology professor, stated how racism still exist minus slavery and Jim Crow laws and with civil rights legislation: 1) the increasingly covert nature of racial discourse and practices, 2) the avoidance of racial terminology and the ever-growing claim by whites that they experience “reverse racism,” 3) the invisibility of most mechanisms to produce racial inequality, 4) incorporation of “safe minorities” to signify the non-racialism of the polity or the racial agenda in the discussion of political matters avoids direct racial references, and 5) the re-articulation of some racial practices characteristic of Jim Crow period of race relations. Avoidance of saying the race or skin color of a person in front of them (I have stupidly done that before) or taking some sort of racial terminology out of context and saying it is racist (e.g. a guy used the world “tribal” to describe indigenous people and they hounded him) are two examples. The claim of “reverse racism” is incorrect because if you are in the privileged group, you do not have a racial system that is meant to keep you down and racism usually refers to a structured system. Yes, any race can face prejudice or discrimination, but most of what minorities do are reactionary prejudices and discrimination. “Safe minorities” are those who look less menacing to mainstream society, i.e. I would not be one of them, especially with my darker skin, my locs and with most of what I am saying now. Other examples are how politicians often do not have in-depth talks about race, most times it is superficial, how there is an informal segregation that exist in housing and neighborhoods and how many schools are still segregated and minority schools are often inadequate.

These days, racism is hard to see. Immediately, we label things as being racist that are not really racist but just the truth at times and things that are racist we label as just another normal thing. I feel we jump to conclusions way too fast and do not think the situation through. Some people explain the cause as an economic, education and any other reason besides thinking about or wanting to think of underlying reason of race. Yes, I would love for everybody to be equal, but in the real world, not the abstract world, not everyone is on the same footing (that is for those who think affirmative action is “reverse racism”). Some of us need a little boost to get to the same level (but that does not mean one should act like a victim), while others tend to forget or pretend to forget the past and current discrimination and its effects, as if they are actually blind!

As far as racism goes, we have come along way since the days of slavery, Jim Crow laws and other overt forms of discrimination. However, the day when true color acceptance has yet to come. When we get to the day that we can look at people, notice their physical and cultural features that define race and ethnicity and not have any stereotype or expectation attached to it, it will be nice, but probably far into the future. What we can do now is, according to Bonilla-Silva, “make visible what remains invisible” and take the dust out from underneath the rug. We are all humans, but we are all different, too, and the “colorblind” ideology implies that everyone is the same, which we are not. Until we realize that and come together as people with both sides working hard and keeping it in mind to achieve it, we will not get the change we hoped for. Yes, it will hurt and it will not be easy, but that is the only way. We are all part of the problem and we all need to be part of the solution.

August 27th, 2009 at 5:33 PM and tagged , , ,

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