How the Social Discourse Perpetuates Racism, Particularly at the University of Mary Washington
This represents the best part of my brainstorming for the evening. I feel a little depressed now, and slightly ill. Two hours spent in forcing myself to confront my own racist tendencies didn’t do much for my optimism meter.
1. Racism exists.
2. Perception of events takes precedence over the actuality of said events. Every story has a spin, and the most prominent medium of information transfer in a community will determine the social discourse.
3. Unequivocal condemnation of racism perpetuates the harms of the status quo by stigmatizing racist beliefs, resulting in an atmosphere of fear and guilt that leads to a defensive, reactionary stance on racism and an “us-versus-them” mentality.
Acceptance of racism (or any elitist “-ism”), is not a viable option, but neither is the unequivocal condemnation of it. Because of the horrible stigma associated with the word “racist”, and the inescapable guilt that accompanies racist leanings in most persons, the word itself has become taboo, forcing us to build walls within ourselves rather than accepting and examining the reasons that we are racist. When we feel uncomfortable with a certain aspect of our thoughts, we does not find ourselves wanting to challenge those thoughts, and therefore admit that we are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., or to ask “why?” This denial ensures that the issue of racism will never be suitably addressed. The only hope for redress is through intense self-scrutiny, both on an individual level and as a society.
Plan: We must work to change the social discourse from one of absolute condemnation of racism to one that allows us to freely question WHY we are racist. We must first admit that there is a problem before a solution can be found (just like AA!)
In short, we should strive to remove the stigma, so that we do not mix up the thought process with the self. i.e. “You are a racist, but that does not mean that you are a bad person. Racism is bad, not you.”
And then I went on to do so to myself. I am racist, and sexist, and homophobic, and socioeconomically elitist and whatever else you would like to paste on.So the first thing that I asked myself was, “Why am I racist?” (or anything else listed above). And I lumped it all together into one pile, “elitism”, which I define as the belief that one is intrinsically better and/or more deserving than another. And then, of course, I asked myself, “Why am I elitist?” And after a bit of thought I realized that my sense of elitism was a reactionary response to the deep-seated fear that I am actually just mediocre. And that fear of mediocrity in turn stemmed from the fear of a loss of self, a loss of individuality. And that fear was a result of my fear of death and oblivion.Going up the other way, starting at elitism: elitism gives one power over another, and that power is intoxicating. There is something inherently flawed in the make-up of humanity. There is always the powerful temptation to destroy, and a sick adrenaline rush in knowing that you hold power over someone else, and that he or she is defenseless. And power corrupts. Once given power, one will do almost anything to hold onto it. One justifies that one is deserving of the power. This leads to a sense of entitlement, a requirement to kill any guilt that one feels over having power and status while another has none; and to it’s sibling, the idea that the victim in the situation somehow deserves the poor lot he or she has been given.I wrote more, but those arguments are either slightly repetitive of the ones already listed here or not fleshed out enough to post. These ones could do with some fleshing, too. But I have a pile of books I checked out at the library to help me do that.
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