Prejudice ≠ Racism
As I elaborated in Post #1, our differences have generated fear instead of promise. Humans maintain a constant low, fragile state, fearful of differences being perceived as weakness and driven by the desire to be safe and secure. Thus, prejudice has flourished. As a definition, prejudice is any preconceived opinion formed without knowledge or reason, either favorable or unfavorable. We are introduced to an idea that is presented as acceptable and begin to form opinions without any back up of personal experience or reality. It can be about anything ethnic, social, religious, or racial. Many of the ideas are presented to us as children by the family or school. I maintain that it appears to be a natural tendency of humans to feel safe and/or secure by judging a difference in another as wrong, less than, undesirable or desirable. Again, it’s the common war waged by our belief in opposites. We are so conditioned to this. See if you can recognize any of the following common examples.
- Blondes have more fun.
- Fat people are lazy.
- Models got to have one of those eating disorders to be that skinny.
- Girls like playing with dolls, boys with trucks.
- Muslims are terrorists.
- Jews will pinch a penny until it breaks.
- Women belong in the home, not the workplace.
- Black women are always angry.
- Being popular is better than being smart.
When we begin to generalize, stereotype, and mobilize prejudice and assign action to it, then prejudice becomes discrimination. An extreme example occurred in Nazi Germany. The Jewish population at that time was perceived as so inferior and dangerous to the Aryan culture that discrimination spawned genocide with the sole purpose of exterminating the Jewish population. In various world societies where prejudice spans centuries, women are perceived as inferior to men in physical, social, and intellectual strength to misogynistic proportions generating great imbalance in educational, economic and social opportunity. A seemingly innocuous example of prejudice takes place in the schoolyard or cafeteria. Given choice, the “popular” kids sit or clique together. The nerd, braniac, fat kid or weakling stands no chance of being picked first for a team. Their fate becomes sealed early as most likely to be the last chosen. We have used differences to build conditioned, thoughtless response and reaction to others. This conditions affects all of us.
Again, it is a natural tendency of the ego to push a person to have preconceived notions of others until that thought of “more than” or “less than” becomes an action that produces a harmful outcome. I believe that when, we, as the human race, can insist that there is enough to go around is when we will find a path to acceptance of our natural tendency to use prejudice to shore up our fragile egos, but NOT subscribe to its unreasonable, fearful certainty. It will allow a more creative and appreciative construct of differences.
So what about racism? Is it prejudice and nothing more? I think not. The affect of racism has created a systemic, oppressive effect fueled by power and privilege for the advancement of a specific race, White people. I listened to W. Kamau Bell recently as he answered Stephen Colbert’s question, “What unknowingly racist behavior is most hurtful?” His reply was that it is the statement, “I’m not racist, but…” Meaning that when you try to pretend, especially as a White person, that you do not benefit gain from the effortless opportunity and privilege afforded to White people in this country, when you create exception for yourself, that is a mean lean towards racism.
Can we add a few words to the statement that can set a white person free from this condition if they so desire? “I know and admit that racism has created opportunity and benefits for me as a White person simply because I am White.” I conjecture that there is not a White person in America that does not know the advantages bestowed by checking the “White” box for designated race on any census form. Or when one subscribes to the melting pot theory that makes a whole bunch of different people equal and the same? That plays out when any person says, “I don’t see a person’s color when it comes to people.” Or, “I don’t see black, brown, white, yellow, or purple striped for that matter when it comes to kids.” Why in the world not? Those statements are racist and infer that there is something wrong with a person’s color. Or that color is not real by inventing a new one-purple striped. White is white and Black is black including all the hues of those skin colors. The color of the skin is the color of the door that opens to cultural similarities and differences. There are beautiful, real differences to be recognized that can make a colorful tossed salad of a variety of cultural ingredients instead of a weak ass melted mess that demands that only one culture and color is blended from all and designated #1.
So how does this play out in our everyday lives? How does it look? Well, what White person has been relegated to fame as long as it is connected to sports and music? What White man is profiled as incessantly as a Black man is and fears being stopped for a busted headlight on a dark road? What White person lives with the gnawing fear of discrimination when they leave their house every day? What brilliant white educator gives a speech and is noted by a relieved School Board member for their acceptable grammar and “White” pronunciation rather than content? What White person is referenced to a rapper when holding a microphone in their hand in a newsroom before a taping? All real instances. If you are a Black person in America.
The crucial part of the definition of racism that makes it different from prejudice is the belief that one’s own race is superior to another’s and, thus, allows conduct and the perceived right to dominate another racial group with indifference and intolerance. Racism has everything to do with how White people conduct themselves towards Black people; in speech and deed.
Interestingly enough, W. Kamau Bell also offers the idea that racism is nonexistent among minorities because there does not exist a similar power base based on supremacy to generate racism towards White people. True ‘dat.
Like many, I am so thoroughly dismayed by racism. Most men and women have experienced a prejudicial attitude of some kind directed towards them and perhaps a discriminatory action. But who can really bear the racist conduct of White people? The constancy of it, the history of it, the mean ignorance that infuses it. Yet in 2016, for any black child to the President of the United States, it is a cross to bear every day in the life of America. And holding the constant prayer that a cross not be burned on one’s path. Or in the yard.
There is benefit to being White in this country. There is no benefit to the human race in denying it or not admitting it. That is the fuel that fans the fire of racism. It is the ignorant antithesis of abundance and acceptance. Stop already. Admitting and saying it, without guilt, begins to bring justice to this terrible condition and promotes right thinking. We are all in this together. There is enough to go around. That is the law of abundance.
Appeal to your higher self the next time you are asked to mark the “Race” box on any census form. Choose √other and write in: Human Race.
Let’s face it…It will take all the love and anticipation we can muster to fix this. We can “aks” or “ask” for the resolve, conviction, and tenacity to do it. Love doesn’t hear the difference.