Racism is a Choice
The great Shirley Chisholm once said, “I am and always will be a catalyst for change.” Creating effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of power, privilege, supremacy, and leadership is like any lifestyle change. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. However, an abundance of resources exist for the purpose of empowering individuals to increase their roles in the quest for equity and justice. We are complicit in racist structures even if they go against our values or beliefs. While changing other people’s beliefs has proven difficult over time, when public perception as a whole shifts, individuals tend to follow suit. Humility is key, as an individual who is not actively discriminated against, cannot possibly know all they need to know about America’s troubling racial tensions. We all have an opinion on racism, but perhaps consider that if you are white, maybe your opinions are not as informed as you think they are. Americans open to change must build interracial and ethnic relationships and develop safety zones where we can have honest conversations and deal with personal and group challenges. We must begin to position ourselves to become effective anti-racists. Only then can we take the deeper explorative examination that is required to confront the current effects of past discrimination and racism. Without this simple first step to recovery, then racism will destroy us individually and collectively. Take the challenge, conversations of racism begin at home!
As a child, my parents cultivated my mindset to fear whites. They did so because they routinely saw young black men harmed or killed. The Civil Rights era provided a discourse where through education and hard work one could build multicultural relationships. Those relationships became key to advancement. Despite initially thinking discrimination was over, I soon realized racism did not go away, but rather adapted to enhanced legislations. In the year 2020 racism is alive and thriving! We are living in an era of unabashed division. An alarming number of white Americans feel free to speak openly of their nostalgia for an age when their cultural, political, and economic dominance could be taken for granted. After a period of coded language and politically correct terminologies, racial bigotry, fear-mongering and scapegoating have once again returned to being the “go to” in our political discourse; the dog whistles have become bullhorns.
Racism says more about the culprit of the racism than it does about the victim. My personal definition of racism is an unquenchable need and desire to hate, usually enacted by people who have a very low sense of self-worth and thus use individual racism as a way of putting others down in an unsuccessful attempt to build their own self esteem. For us to get over racism, we all must accept the multiplicity of humankind. Moreover, diversity is not a casual liberal tolerance of anything and everything different from oneself. It is not a polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is the sometimes-painful awareness that other people, other races, other habits of mind, have as much claim upon the world, as you do.