Maybe I’m a little late to the game but I’m wrapping up my thoughts on Charlottesville, the protests there and the responses around the country.
Now the events in Virginia were saddening and disgusting to say the least, but there are important things to learn from them in regards to ensuring they don’t happen again.
1. Send Nazis Back To Where They Came From
The Nazi party definitely shares a bed with white supremacists from the United States. First of all, this gives a bad name to Germany which has done an outstanding job recognizing their involvement in the Holocaust and destroying monuments that were built during the Nazi regime. Second of all, many people are too comfortable putting the blame somewhere else in this situation. White supremacists are not a foreign entity that we need to cross an ocean to vanquish, they are American grown. To label the groups marching in Charlottesville as just Nazi fanboys ignores the past and present of white supremacists in the US. Americans need to be prepared to fight the fight at home, not just send our infamous military any which place to rid the Earth of foreigners that are ruining our “great” country.
This Is Us! The United States in its foundation is based off white supremacy, genocide, and slavery. Though the protests, and the death and injuries that resulted from them, were disheartening, they should not surprise us. The establishment of race in this country was specifically designed to ensure whiteness as ultimately superior and blackness as its antithesis. Just because we can all drink from the same water fountains, it does not mean racism no longer exists. It’s important to recognize the way racism affects this country in order to stop it.
3. Understanding Racism
Racism comes in many flavors. It’s much more complicated than white supremacists marching and shouting slurs. Micro aggressions such as clutching your purse when a black person is on the elevator with you are also racist, no matter how ingrained they are in our society. Many people consider these unimportant or “nit-picky” problems, but these issues can quickly escalate. Considering that someone grabs their purse when a black person is close by means they consider that person dangerous or criminal. This same logic applies to why Tamir Rice, a 12 year old black boy, was shot in the street, because his skin color was enough for him to be dangerous to a grown white man’s life.
These ideas are taught to us in many ways: our families, television and other forms of media, and even our education systems. Considering the Eurocentric history and glorification of the American past taught in all of our classes, it’s not surprising that non-white people are considered foreign and suspicious to majority of the American public. The concept of brown and black as less than white doesn’t only affect white people. These biases affect how people of color see themselves as well, and how we all teach other people around us to consider one another. Correcting these biases and stereotypes as just that, not as fact, can help us avoid problems like racial biases in employment, loans, education, etc.
4. (One of) The Solutions
One of the solutions! I think it’s really important to stress that. “Ridding” our country of racism is not going to be done in one day, one week, or any time around that. It is not going to be completed with one action. No sole speech or demonstration will rid the United States of its deeply rooted biases and prejudices. One way we can start to dig through all this muck is by confronting ourselves and the people around us about our biases.
It’s important when confronting all the types of prejudices that our country has in its roots that we don’t ignore as well the privileges we have. As a woman of color, I am aware of the systems that oppress me. I’m aware how being a woman and how being of color affects my daily life. But it’s important as well that I’m aware of my privileges, there is no oppression olympics! There is no medal for being the worst off! I am straight, I am cis-gendered, I’ve travelled to many countries, I am educated (and continuing my education in a private, very expensive institution), my family is well enough off that I eat and drink more than enough, always have shelter, and I have lots of love in my life. These privileges affect my life as well, and it’s important I recognize those.
Now to the title of this post… In this NPR podcast about 20 minutes in, a pastor runs a group called Racists Anonymous. Similarly to Alcoholics Anonymous, this group is designed for people to openly question and discuss something that plagues them. This model looks at racism as an almost mental illness, something so ingrained in us that it needs to be completely worked over. This group allows people of all races to confront the way they’ve been conditioned to think and to attempt to change that. People in the group openly call themselves racist and recognize the ways they’ve been racist in their lifetimes, a lot of times by just letting racism run its course without any attempt to make change.
Being able to talk about race comfortably with other people is a freeing feeling, I encourage all people to find a place where they can do that. Educating ourselves about what it’s really like to be another person, and exercising our empathetic skills, allows us to become better members of society.