Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Racism and Prejudice: Part I

I love White people. I don’t always understand them—I love Black people. I don’t always understand them either. Am I a racist? I don’t believe so. I am however, prejudiced—and you are too. There is a difference between racism and prejudice. The difference is subtle but it makes a world of difference in our daily interactions as members of the human race. I won’t go to the dictionary for definitions because you can do that yourself and I really want to speak extemporaneously on this topic.

When I think of racism, I think of a deep seated belief that one’s race is superior to another. The world has seen its share of racists in its history. The history of White supremacists in this country is probably the most poignant and common example. There are also Black Supremacists. This may not be as well known to as many. These are they that proclaim that the White man is the devil and so forth.

This country has a history of racial tension and acrimony. This is very unfortunate. This is one of the primary reasons that we all are so prone to prejudice. Prejudice can be defined by simply breaking down its root words pre and judice. Prejudice quite simply means to pre-judge. Prejudice is the single biggest reason we are experiencing such a resurgence of racial tension in this country in 2010.

To be sure, racism is still alive and well in America. There are still too many who hold the aforementioned racist and bigoted views. The fact is there are exponentially more who do not hold racist or bigoted attitudes. I will concede however that all of us are prone to prejudice. Our history too often causes us to view each other through the prism of racism. It has to be noted however that all of our prejudices don’t have to do simply with skin color.

Disclaimer: This is where I may get in trouble…

Example 1

When I am walking through the mall parking lot and I see a group of young black men speaking loudly in foul language, in oversized shirts, sagging pants, gold teeth and bloodshot eyes, I give them a wide berth. I say to myself, “self, those fellas might be high and they might want to start some trouble.” I may want to keep an eye on them and try to stay out of their way. You don’t have to admit it but you would be just as nervous in this situation whatever color you are.

Example 2

On Monday of this week I took my five year old daughter to swim lessons at the local pool. After her lesson was over my daughter came out of the pool and started to walk towards where I was sitting. I got up and approached her to meet her and took her to a nearby bench where a white woman had just placed her and her small son’s belongings on one half of the bench. I sat down and proceeded to help my daughter dry off and get herself together. As we were working, my daughter started to climb on to the bench next to me. Before I could stop her she almost sat on a sun visor that belonged to the white woman. Almost immediately I noticed the woman approaching us. I said hello. She said nothing that I could discern and proceeded to move her things to the next bench.

She seemed bothered and I have to confess that my initial thoughts were not very fair minded. I thought to myself, “I don’t care if you don’t like black people.” I was calling her every kind of racist I could in my mind. I possibly could have been correct in some regard but why can’t it be just as likely that she may have been a little upset that she perceived I was allowing my daughter to climb all over her belongings?

Is it fair that I would be worried that people that look like the gentlemen in the first example might be violent? More importantly, is my fear of them simply because of their skin color or were more factors in play? Is it fair that my first reaction to the woman at the pool was to brand her a racist? Does she deserve the benefit of the doubt concerning her racism? Do you think all of our prejudices are based solely on skin color?

That’s enough food for thought. Now I’ll write Part II of Racism and Prejudice.

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