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On: Racism

July 31, 2008

I’ve been hesitant to post my views on this emotionally charged subject, because in my experience, it’s not “mainstream”. I’ve been called ignorant for my views. While I’m OK with that, I don’t necessarily need that on my blog. So I had to buck up and come to place where I was OK with what this post could bring.

I’ve been working on this blog in my head for a bit, but then saw this story on CNN and felt it was the right time to get it all out. If you don’t feel like reading, the gist of it is 4 teenage white boys, after a night of drinking, beat an illegal 25 year old immigrant to death. Beating him so badly that they left an impression on him of the religious medal he wore around his neck. Makes you sick right?

In reading some of the readers comments, people were upset that the victim was classified as a Hispanic and the perpetrators as White teens. Some said race isn’t important, but the act of violence was.

I disagree.

After a night of drinking, the teens taunted the undocumented worker with racial epithets, pummeled him to the ground and then kicked him in the head, court documents charge. He died in a hospital two days later.

Seems pretty clearly racially motivated to me.

So much of the problem with racism today stems from the fact that so many think it doesn’t exist. It’s very much alive and well.

Another problem is people think minorities are “playing the victim”. And that programs like Affirmative Action are reverse racism and only serve to futher the gap.

I disagree.

This social experiment measured resumes and AA sounding names. They concluded that job applicants with white sounding names had to send 10 resumes to get a call back, while applicants with AA sounding name had to send out 15.

I’ve heard the argument (in regards to AA’s now), “I never had a slave, so why should I apologize??!”. I’m supposing recognizing the past and being sorry about it is too much, hey? True YOU never had a slave, and those AA’s in society today weren’t slaves, but not acknowledging it is doing a great disservice to their history.

On to reverse racism! It doesn’t exist. In fact, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I don’t believe that minorities can be racist against whites. Prejudiced, yes. Likely with due cause. But not racist. To me, racisim goes hand in hand with power. Minorities don’t have the power to suppress white people. Therefore, it’s not racism. As far as Affirmative Action being considered as such is ridiculous. It’s simply to give everyone a level playing field. If you can’t get a job as a white male in America because the company has to meet requirements, you’ve been given a small taste of what minorities face daily. Doesn’t feel really nice, does it?

I’ve heard also that it’s time for AA’s to “get over” the past. So, MLK was assinated 40 very short years ago. I suppose that 400 years of oppression should be “gotten” over in a few short years? And I’m sorry, but it’s pretty ballsy to think you have the right to say when anyone should be over anything.

Now to the question of how we fix it. I don’t know. I wish I did. I don’t believe in being “color blind” because really, differences should be acknowledged and celebrated. I think the first step is to teach our kids properly. Teach them acceptance. Don’t ignore racism, but teach about it, and why it’s wrong. It’s OK for them to notice that some people have different skin color. As long as when they do, it’s explained that they are the same on the inside. I’m not sure how much of this we’ll have to face, being that my kids are biracial. I’m afraid in some ways, of them entering school.

I welcome your thoughts on this. Even if you disagree! I’m always open to hearing other perspectives.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. jordan permalink
    July 31, 2008 6:59 pm

    I would really laugh if someone said it doesn’t exist. Of course it exists, it has become ingrained in our system, and it sucks. I totally agree Jen.

  2. July 31, 2008 8:07 pm

    Jen, I have so many opinions on this, on so many levels. I don’t even know where to begin, but first I’d like to applaud your courage for bringing up the subject.

    My husband is an immigrant. He changed his last name after living in the States for a few years because he didn’t want his children to experience the same things he did. His last name was originally Dos Santos. He had a hard time finding work, he experienced incredibly prejudices, even within a multinational company, but whose headquarters were in the US. He overcame, but not without struggle and sacrifices his American counterparts didn’t have to make.

    If you say reverse racism does not exist (black and white), you must be speaking about an American perspective and experience. I’m sure you’ve seen what’s going on in Zimbabwe. We have relatives in South Africa. The racism from both sides is out of control. I do believe reverse racism exists in this country as well, but we define racism differently.

    I think the prejudices immigrants (legal and illegal) experience are in some ways different from those experienced within the black community. Different issues, different obstacles, but it’s all dehabilitating nonetheless.

    Unfortunately, the black community does not have strong leadership and although I agree that the history of slavery should be recognized and as a country we have much to feel shameful about, we have recognized it over and over. We’ve built monuments, museums, we discuss it during public policy debate, in legislative meetings, around dinner tables. We teach about it in our schools. We have a national black history day and celebrations. MLK’s birthday is a national holiday. I believe we have to move beyond it and we have to disallow it as a crutch for further disintegration. Rather than continuing to discuss slavery as a reason for today’s ills, I think it’s more beneficial to discuss better access to education, which creates opportunity. We need better male and family role models. Black against black crime needs to decline. The drugs and violence that characterize many black communities is terrible, and it’s part of the cause for prejudices. We’ve already had a significant number of young black men murdered by their own colleagues in the first six months here in Atlanta.

    I REALLY think Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to retire from public life. Their message is not one of progress. They’ve made their living through fear mongering and by encouraging the chasms of separation between black and white communities.

    I think affirmative action does more to hurt minorities than it does to help. There was a time and place for it, but that time and place is not now.

    I don’t agree with the term, African American. I have two step children who grew up in Africa. They are white. One of them now lives here in the States and has more of a claim to say he’s an African American than do people who can simply trace their heritage to Africa, but who know nothing of the culture or experience. I think using separatist language helps to create separate realities. Irish American, Italian American, African American, whatever it is…you’re either American or you’re not.

    This is turning into a whole post instead of a comment. Sorry about that. Again, I’m really glad you put this out there and I understand how hard it is to put yourself on the line. I admire your courage for doing so!

  3. Jen permalink*
    July 31, 2008 8:21 pm

    Tricia,

    Yes, I’m thinking reverse racism doesn’t exist in America. I do believe it does exist elsewhere.

    I used the AA term, only because a black woman I know was offended by being called black – she said it had “ghetto” connotations. It’s definitely not my preferred way of addressing black people.

    And I totally agree that immigrants experience racism differently. Husbands parents immigrated here. He’s first generation born in the US.

    Our views on racism are largely defined by where we live. I think because I don’t “see” the past being acknowledged regularly here, then minorities don’t see it either, so while there may be statues and such, it doesn’t do a lot of good where I am. Like, black history month, it’s only a month – out of 12. I don’t see how that’s enough. Added to that, people are always complaining about it, saying “why do they get their OWN month!?” – because every other month is white history month!

    I can see in some cases where the past is used as a crutch, but I just can’t get angry about it. I truly don’t feel like being black in America is anything like being white in America and that’s sad.

    I agree about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton!

    Thanks for opening up to me! I know we don’t agree on all points, but I love discussing this with open minded, intelligent people!

  4. July 31, 2008 11:41 pm

    I really do understand where you’re coming from. Where you live, like where I live, has huge immigrant populations, although Texas has a border issue that Atlanta does not. I grew up in Vermont…where it’s incredibly homogeneous.

    American History should include all the pockets, all the realities and races, genders, ethnic and cultural groups that exist here. Europeans massacred the Indians, during WWII we threw huge numbers of American citizens in our own form of concentration camps simply because they were Japanese by heritage. Women’s suffrage has an even longer history than slavery, wonder if we’ll give Afghani prisoners I just think there has to come a time when we agree that we’re all Americans, when we rise together for a common good and start focusing on what will make us stronger as a citizenry instead of what divides us. I don’t have the answers either, but I also welcome the dialog. Our desire is for the same thing, absolutely! And, I agree, we have to teach our children even better than our parents and social systems have taught us!

  5. August 1, 2008 12:51 am

    I agree with much that has been said here … I mostly want to say that I appreciate that you have brought up the topic, it is so important and you have started a dialog and some talking, this is great. I think together you and Tricia have really covered a lot of ground … I would like to ditto Tricia’s final statement:

    “Our desire is for the same thing, absolutely! And, I agree, we have to teach our children even better than our parents and social systems have taught us!”

    I could not have said it better. I am sure that I will continue to think about this …

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