In twenty-first century America it should be an easy discussion to have, this issue of racism. Racism exists. It is easily observed in our lives and in the lives of those around us. It isn’t even that difficult to understand. We, as human beings, look around us frantically trying to make sense of the world around us. We form ideas and concepts and make many assumptions about the world. We do this because we cannot be omniscient. We cannot know everything. Making assumptions based on what we know thus far is just a smart move. We want to be surefooted and safe as we advance through life, so we take what we’ve learned and make our best guess sometimes. People prefer familiarity to change. Another evolutionary safeguard for ensured survival perhaps?
This alone is cause for people to fear and approach cautiously the things we know little to nothing about. Racism is, simply put, the byproduct of what many think they know thus far. Unfortunately the information people receive is becoming less and less based in real world experience. We listen to the stories of others instead of finding out first-hand. What we think we know can be far from reality, depending of course on where you get your information from.
As a species, we have constructed complex narratives throughout the ages to help us grasp this unfathomable thing we are experiencing. Life is overwhelming. In twenty-first century America you would think that we would move beyond the tall tales of old to tell us how to think and act, how to behave and interact. But instead we have found new narratives, new trusted sources to tell us what to believe beyond the limited scope of our personal experience. We’ve put down our books filled with fairytales and mythology and turned on our televisions. From smart phones all the way to the big screen cinema we beg to be told another story, at the end of the day all people really want is to understand it all.
Ever since we first wailed at the uncomfortable sting of cold air on our newborn skin we have been receiving information from this world. We’ve been forming our very own perception of it. We’ve been developing a worldview that fits comfortably within the narrative we are being told.
Back to the issue of racism. Imagine for a minute that you had never met a black individual before but had cable T.V., do you think that your overall perception of black culture would be a positive one? Or do you think maybe not-so-much?
People who live in New York City have ample opportunity to personally get to know people of every ethnicity, even foreigners are there on a regular basis. But this, sadly has not eliminated racism in NYC. It just isn’t that easy.
The reason racism can fester even where people of different ethnicities thrive is also a simple one, because if you want to continue listening to the narrative you have to believe. If you want to listen to pundits like Trump you have to be on board. You must ascribe to the preposterous and grandiose assumptions he makes about whole races and cultures. People who continue listening to the narrative, even when their real world experiences debunk the biased assumptions, are arguably the most dangerous. They have become willfully ignorant and hateful, which is ultimately nothing more than a defense mechanism. They have become non-thinking conformists who await being told what to think next.
Don’t get me wrong, people have a right to be scared in a world that promotes violence, division, hate, and even war. The world is terrifying, but why? Why is the world such a dangerous place? What are people so defensive and divisive? Well, it’s because of the narrative, the tall tales we are told and in turn tell each other. When the story we tell ourselves works us into a frenzy we need to begin to change the narrative.
Ideas of racism, and of what type of behavior is typical to a group can be self-adopted. Inner city youths are taught by gang leaders to become exactly what the racist see’s in minorities. And as they grow and act in ways appropriate to the group they have identified with the local stations begin to pick up stories of violence and chaos. These stories are then relayed nationwide if the carnage is grotesque enough to garner a ratings boost. It becomes part of the collective narrative.
Many people would say that television and movies do not heavily impact the way we see the world, which is utter nonsense. The subconscious mind cannot differentiate between real world experience and these stories we take in. It all becomes part of the narrative. Until we live in a world that tells a narrative that is unbiased the world will continue to produce biased minds.
Movies that promote violent gang life (without any humanizing and relevant threads) are promoting racism. Those memes of President Barak Obama holding a banana are, you guessed it, racist. When Bill O’Reilly calls black protesters thugs and white protesters students he is being racist. The examples are literally in the gazillions. Racism is alive and well in the biased narrative here in America.
Racism exists in the mind first. It exists in the minds of Black, Hispanic, Aboriginal, and Chinese alike. Sometimes it is self-applied. It is a false set of assumptions gleaned from the long narrative we are being told all day every day.
My eyes where opened the hard way. I am white and I used to hold certain biases about minorities. I was never overtly racist, I actually spoke against racism as early as 8 when my first best friend was black, but as I grew I observed some racist notions within myself. I went to prison in 2011 at the end of a struggle with addiction. With a 3 year sentence to fulfill I had a lot of time to talk to people, and strangely enough the majority of the prisoners where minorities. The more I spoke with others about there experiences and the lives they had been living I quickly realized that they where absolutely no difference between us in any perceivable way besides physical.
I spoke with inmate after inmate about what lead them down a path of crime. Every time I heard a tale riddled with self-sabotage and adverse environments. They all to often grew up learning to view themselves according to a racist narrative. We need to alter the narrative to exclude the biased assumptions we make about ourselves and others based on skin color, culture, and religion. We need to add our voices to the narrative to combat the racist rhetoric that seems absurdly commonplace here in twenty-first century America.
Racism is not very complicated. We live in a world where we are bombarded with narratives that give us information from which we then assess the world anew. The world is a very big place. Most people see black people on television and see them very infrequently in real life. These folks get most of their information about ‘others’ from TV, Movies, Magazines, Pop-Culture, and of course the dreaded FOX news… and the narratives that are told inevitably tell a tale that is tall rather than true. White privilege is also not very complicated. When all the narratives you hear about ‘whites’ are about your friends and family, about positive and uplifting things, you naturally form a ‘trust’ or a preference towards whites. In a system of thinking that perpetuates negative generalizations towards all skin colors but white: white becomes preferred. This is a learned pattern of thinking.
Become anti-racist. Speak openly and at length about the biased narrative that is being propagated in mainstream media. Call it for what it is. Embrace your brothers and sisters of all walks of life and let them tell you a story, because their narrative, the real-world experiences they have, will be evidence enough of the injustice of racism in twenty-first century America.
As usual, thanks for stopping by!