Ingredients of Racism
This writing comes from an academic perspective of racism rather than from the heart. I hope what I write sparks conversations. I don’t expect everyone to like or agree with my words. I do know this: actions may speak louder than words, but knowledge is the foundation for corrective, positive action. A knowledgeable foundation is a positive tool for fighting against the tyranny of racism. To fight racism, we must know the ingredients within America’s brand of racism. To fight racism, we must be willing to feel uncomfortable. To fight racism, we must understand that everyone and I mean everyone, will eventually be affected by the manifestations of racism.
The first and perhaps the main ingredient of racism is power. Racism doesn’t work without power. If racist acts against a person or group of people didn’t have the power to interfere with, control or destroy lives, families, and the ability to learn, discover and prosper; then a person or a group of people’s racist attitudes would mean very little. If there were no power in racism, racist people would be like the grumpy old uncle, sitting in the corner, on Thanksgiving. The other relatives just tolerate him. However, in America, racism does have power. Racism has the power via television, newspapers, books and history, to define who a group of people are and then treat them accordingly. Racism also has the power to persuade people to believe and say; those who speak out against racism are un-American and un-patriotic. Racist do this by using that tired-ass statement,” if you don’t like how things are in America, then leave it”.
The second ingredient of racism is a faulty education system. When people’s education is faulty, those in power can convince them of anything. A faulty education has the potential to happen to more than just people of color. This is necessary because, there must be friendly fire casualties, whilst perpetrating racism on America. So, there are well meaning people walking around with a faulty sense of superiority, because of a faulty education. Here are two examples of faulty education.
#1. Several years ago, I took a group of (majority of them White) students on a field trip to Pendleton, Oregon. We visited the community college there, but it was walking through the city underground, where Asian people had to live while they built the railroads, that taught the students the biggest lesson. Many of them were visibly shaken. Their history books never taught them about how Asians people were not allowed in town after dark.
#2. In a college course I was teaching in 2013, called ‘Sociology of African Americans’, I asked the students to get into groups with the students closest to them. Of the forty students, there were nine students of color. Five of (two Hispanics and three African Americans) ended up in the same group. After a couple minor in-class projects, I assigned the major project. At that point groups were given the choice, via voting, on whether to stay in their same groups or change groups. The group consisting of the 5 students of color, apparently not satisfied with their group’s performance, voted not to stay in their group. The rest of the class (about 30 White students and 4 other students of color), voted to remain in their groups. Unfortunately for the group consisting of only students of color, this meant they had to stay in their group. Over a month later the major group projects were due. Two students from the group consisting of only students of color staged a protest. Without telling the other group members, they ignored the rules of the group project. They angrily addressed the class. According to them, they were at a disadvantage for having to do such an important group project, in a group consisting of only students of color. According to them the White students had an academic advantage. They call themselves “the disenfranchised”. They called the White students “privileged”. Here’s the bottom line. Earlier, I’d learned that both college students (over 30 years of age) were educated in school systems with no teachers of color. They really believed being in a group of students of color made them academically inferior. By the way, the other students of color in the group didn’t feel academically inferior. They’d come from more diverse teaching environments.
The third ingredient of racism is apathy. In the last writing I mentioned, racism was done on purpose and it must be un-done on purpose. Therefore, sitting around talking about how bad racism is, without instituting corrective, positive actions, only feeds racism. The group who makes me the saddest are Christians. Christians should be at the front of the line in ridding America of racism. As Christians we have the help of the number one playmaker of all time, but our fear of dealing with racism has put Him on the bench. We sit in our huddles (Churches) marveling at the plays He wrote for us. We never actually break the huddle and run His plays. Jesus told His Disciples to “Go”. He wanted them to leave the room they were hiding in and go tell the world the good news. If prayer was all there was to helping man love and be reconciled to Him, Jesus would have told His Disciples to stay in the room and pray hard. However, Jesus knew prayer without action was not enough. Here are two Bible passages that really make me wonder about what being a Christian is about. Matthew 7:21-23, talks about what people expecting to enter the Kingdom of Heaven can expect. He tells those people that He never knew them, even though they did many wonders in His name. What people is He talking about? In 1 John 4:20 it says, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” These passages are rarely preached from the pulpit.
The fourth ingredient of racism is our “Melting Pot” mentality. America needs to rid itself of the “Melting Pot” mentality. It sounds good at first glance, but if looked at closely, the melting pot theory of America asks people to give-up who they are and assimilate. From my perspective this is the very definition of racism. We have the dominate group of people telling everyone else, that to be good Americans you must shed yourself of who you are and become like me. That was fine in the old “I wanna be like Mike” commercials, but, a group of people shouldn’t have to melt themselves down and become someone else, in order to live peacefully in this country. There’s a big difference between living by the laws and customs of America and having to give up one’s identity as a human being. A healthier perspective for everyone, is what I call the “Big Salad” mentality. There’s nothing healthier than a big salad. In a big salad the tomato is allowed to contribute to the salad and make it better, by staying a tomato. The same goes for the lettuce, white and green onions, cucumber, red and yellow peppers, black olives, brown mushrooms and so on. Every item (group of people) added to the big salad (America) makes the big salad (America) better. The items (groups of people) do not have to change themselves into someone else. Americans should see America as a “Big Salad” rather than a “Melting Pot”.
Again, racism was done on purpose. It must be un-done on purpose. Let’s all try to do something to un-do racism. Hold discussions at your homes and churches. Read the history of someone of a different skin color. Finally, stop saying, “I don’t see color.” Unless you’re physically blind you do see color, just like you see poverty. It’s okay to recognize color and poverty, learn from them and even celebrate cultural differences. The greatness of America comes from the assortment of people and ideas available within America. If we forget this valuable tool, we’ll lose the real America.