It took a while before I decided to write about racism. My heart yearned to join the #blackouttuesday social media campaign few weeks ago but I had no words to form a caption that would compliment its cause.
I do recognize the sensitivity of the issue and I know that the whole topic has a bigger backstory. My limited knowledge about the subject made it difficult for me to put something into writing. I didn’t want to make the matter worse by sounding vague. I was afraid to say a thing that is far from its historical context. However, there’s a voice within me that is too loud to go unheard, too consistent to ignore, and too real to be hidden.
So here I am taking a bold step to share my thoughts about racism. If you are an expert on the subject, excuse my ignorance for I am still learning. I am writing from a place of subjectivity rather than a well-established philosophy.
Let me begin by borrowing a profound statement by Adam Rutherford. He is the author of How To Argue With A Racist, a brilliant book that unravels the history, science and realities of race.
Race is real because we perceive it, and racism is real because we enact it.Adam Rutherford, How To Argue With A Racist
“Race is real because we perceive it“
Anyone has the tendency to put a label on people based on their skin color, physical attributes, or abilities. Overt racism is not always responsible for such actions. Cognitive bias at times take the lead and position our interpretation into an auto-pilot mode. We default to what our initial impression tells us. It makes us drop the unrecognizable hints and magnify only what we see on the surface.
Associative learning which was introduced to us in the early stage of behavioral development affect our perception too. This classic psychological principle supports the idea that our brain is not designed to recall information in isolation. It requires two or more elements in order to recall a memory. For instance, when we are trying to name the restaurant where we had the best pasta in Italy, it helps if we remember another event, person or a thing that was present during the time we are enjoying that bowl of pasta.
Because of these, we easily associate people with their categorical features that are shaped by general ideas and in some cases myths and stereotypes. It makes us perceive race in a shallow manner. We do not question our judgement because it seems right.
“Racism is real because we enact it”
“I’m not a racist!” is my immediate response at times when someone calls me a racist. I’m to quick to defend. To move away from the topic without analyzing the actions I made or words I said that triggered the other party to call me as such.
There is a thin line between a being a racist and just being careless on how we deal with others. Having the opportunity to travel, often I would notice people communicating with their eyes and making gestures when someone of a different color, tone or appearance walks into the room. I’ve had my fair share of being treated that way, but never bothered to deal with it because I believe that it is not always driven by wicked intentions. But, as long as no one calls out this behavior, and we ourselves are not being careful how we respond to differences, we would end up being a culprit of racism.
On the flip side, there are also people who enact racism with despicable intentions. They perceive race disparities as a license to criticize. Some have had an obnoxious encounter with someone of a particular race, resulting to hating the entire group. At times, repeated stories and perceptions of others turn into the official truth. While there are also others who simply adhere to stereotypes for obvious reasons. No matter which angle we look at, it’s not right. It’s not ok to be a racist. No one has the right to step on others’ cultural background just because they are on the other side of the spectrum.
We find ourselves in a sea full of similarities and differences, where we are being tossed greatly by strong winds ruining our connectedness. So powerful that it creates intimidating waves taking over our understanding and personal judgment. So intense that it breaks the stillness and harmony in our society. How long will we let ourselves be controlled by the raging waves?
Education is crucial to understanding racism. We have limitless resources and a variety of options both online and offline. Supporting a cause because majority is doing it makes the fight even worse. Agreeing with the movement just because someone tells us it’s bad is not enough.
Make efforts to learn how not to be a racist because it counts. Choose courage to speak up and bury timidity or fear when someone is being racist to you or to others. Listen to real stories intentionally and respond carefully. In any way that we can, we must shed a light to overcome the darkness of racism.
It’s time to stand up and make a concious decision to fight racism that discord us. Everyone has the right to live equally and securely regarless of their race. We all have the opportunity within our own capacity to win over racism. To make the world an even better place to live in.
“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for”Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls