The United States prides itself on being a melting pot. But lately, it feels as if though that is not the case. Racism is not new. People of color have been and continue to be threatened, attacked, and killed, every day. If as a society we want to push forward towards bettering the state of our nation, we need to talk about racism in America.
It seems like ever since Trump was elected, I can’t go a day without reading headlines like the following.
Racism In America
If you voted for Trump does that make you a racist? No. But you did vote for a man whose whole campaign ran on a xenophobic platform.
Some of his followers are under the impression that they can yell racial remarks or harm minorities in their quest to “Make America Great Again.”
Government leaders who remain silent are part of the problem.
Through their silence they allow discriminatory rhetoric to go unchallenged in the media.
That is why we as citizens should take it upon ourselves to encourage hard conversations about racism in America.
1. Racism Affects All POC In America
People of color have lived in fear and danger since the start of American history. And now, people are on edge because their loved ones are being deported, racial tensions are being fueled, and so on.
And the seeming increase of threats and attacks doesn’t make life easier.
If you have never been a victim of racism, that doesn’t mean that it’s not your problem. Before you know it, we’ll all be, or know someone affected by it.
2. Racial Microaggression Are A Daily Thing
Everyday racism can be subtle and insidious. Wikipedia defines a microaggression as “the casual degradation of any marginalized group.”
Comments such as:
“You’re so articulate!”
“No, but where are you really from?”
“You’re so exotic!”
“What are you?”
“I’m not a racist. I have several (insert choice of race) friends.”
“You’re pretty, but you’d look better with lighter skin!”
“Wow, your English is great!” (I was born in America!)
These types of comments create uncomfortable and unsafe situations for minorities in America.
Such remarks help spread the notion of an “us” and a “them.” It also makes minorities feel like foreigners in their own country.
3. It’s Not Simply A Matter Of Being “Sensitive”
People of color are allowed to be angry about racism. It’s easy for people to dismiss that anger instead of acknowledging it.
Just because you have never experienced racism in America doesn’t mean that it’s not happening.
Responses in which people argue that because it hasn’t happened to them, so, therefore, it must not be real, silences people of color.
Not being able to relate doesn’t mean that it’s not an issue.
For example, this is seen with cultural appropriation. There was an incident in which model Karlie Kloss dressed as a geisha for a magazine spread that was supposed to be a diversity issue. This offended a lot of Asian-Americans.
There were many who were vocal about the distasteful and offensive shoot. There were also a handful of Asian-Americans who were telling everyone to chill out because they weren’t offended.
You don’t have the right to speak for others or on behalf of others because you weren’t offended.
Anger is a natural response to being systematically oppressed. Who are you to decide what and how other people should feel?
4. White Privilege Is Real
White privilege doesn’t mean that you’re rich, successful, or that your life is 100% worry free.
Think of white privilege in the sense that if you were stopped by a cop, you would have an easier time than someone of color. Or if you’re in a store, you have the privilege of not being followed around by an employee simply because of the color of your skin.
Look at what happened with United Airlines.
It may not have been a racist incident, but I have a hard time picturing this happening to a white person. And if it had, the response from United Airlines would’ve been more genuine.
The same goes for the jaywalking incident in Sacramento, where a police officer pummeled a black man accused of jaywalking.
In order for us to move the conversation forward, white people in America need to acknowledge white privilege.
5. And So Is White Fragility
Another factor that needs to be addressed is why it’s difficult to talk to white people about racism in America.
Please raise your hand if you have ever heard a white person ask, “Why do we have to make this about race?”
This is where “white fragility” comes into play. White fragility is a term coined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. It is “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.”
According to DiAngelo, “white people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.”
Those not involved in the conversation about racism tend to be less tolerant when it comes to “race-based stress.” This causes them to become defensive and fearful when confronted.
White fragility prohibits the advancement of conversations about racism in America.
6. There Is No Such Thing As Being Color-Blind
No matter how progressive you think you are, you do see race. When you look at someone, (whether it is intentional or not) you judge that person immediately.
You make judgments without knowing a thing about the other person. Pretending that you don’t see race means that you haven’t had to.
That’s because you’re privileged! People who are discriminated against don’t get to wake up one day and decide that today is the day race doesn’t matter and ceases to exist.
And neither do you.
7. Not Talking About Racism Won’t Make It Go Away
Just like how ignoring that nail in your tire isn’t going to magically repair your wheel, not talking about racism, isn’t going to heal the divide.
How can you tell an oppressed person to stop being oppressed?
It’s like telling your depressed friend to get over it and stop being sad.
If the key to ending racism in America was that easy this conversation wouldn’t be happening.
8. People Who Don’t Think Racism Is Real Are The Problem
I’ve seen endless comments on social media where people say something like: “You’re the racist for talking about race.”
Also, I’d like to point out that reverse racism isn’t a thing.
Back to my main point. Talking about racism doesn’t make you a racist. I don’t know why I see people write that on social media sometimes.
Claiming that racism doesn’t exist or that someone is a racist for talking about racism sets us back.
You can’t deny someone’s experience because it is not true to you.
9. If It Makes You Uncomfortable, Talk About It
I imagine that for a lot of people, talking about race is uncomfortable. But it’s a conversation that needs to be had.
Sure, talking about race isn’t as fun as talking about how Mariah Carey gave her ex-boy toy 25k a month to buy her gifts.
But talking about racism in America will never be an easy topic.
POC can’t ignore these issues because for many it boils down to life or death. Jaywalking on the street as a black man can get you thrown to the ground by a police officer. Playing with a toy gun at a park as a little black boy can get you killed. Hanging out with your co-workers at a bar can get you shot and killed as an Indian man.
And the list goes on.
As a society, we’ve moved past the point where we can no longer not have these discussions.
If the topic of racism makes you uneasy, then talk about it.