The first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is in fact a problem. Without recognition there is no room for solution. Conscientiousness of the complexities that surround racism leads to further education on issues pertaining to it. Educating yourselves is the second step to solution and the right step toward personal growth and eventual dissolution of racist contributions.
The blatant disregard for recognizing these barriers exist as well as the lack of effective actions taken to break down said barriers, have aggressively caught my attention over the course of my freshman year. I now find it vital to not only inform members of my student body of the significance of this word, but to also focus on the impact that simply becoming educated on such a topic can make. It is especially important upon continuation that you open not only your eyes, but also your minds.
Despite your own personal ideals about how racism no longer affects the lives of POC, racism is in fact a system of advantage based on race. And in order to be a racist you have to have two things, privilege plus power. And who are the ones who have said privilege and power? White people.
What is white privilege you ask? A term for societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. These privileges are unearned and are distributed based on values of the dominant group. We do not live in a society where every racial group has equal power and opportunity. Whites do not face discrimination at the level that people of color do. This is not to say that they do not experience aspects of it, but it is not on the same scale.
There have been many uneducated, ignorant or just plain ugly comments my ears have unwillingly absorbed while trying to mind my own business on this campus. But the most commonly used excuse by white people is an attempt to wipe clean their slate of racist association. A comment such as “I don’t see race,” in translation says: “I’m going to use my place of privilege to refute the sufferings of those who do not have white privilege while at the same time erasing their personal and cultural history.”
This acts as some sort of taboo for racism and instead of dissolving an issue, prolongs it. This colorblind ideology is a manifestation of racist culture, and serves as a sort of internalized progression of white people disregarding the challenges that POC face on a regular basis whether it be institutional or individual. Martin Luther King Jr. asked people to judge one another by content of character and not by the color of their skin, his implication was not to disregard the recognition of color in any capacity.
By refusing to acknowledge race is to neglect the embracement of ethnicity and the establishment of cultural disadvantages that have been set in place by means of society for centuries. This also leads to the group as a whole being marginalized. And then there is is also always the infamous flat out denial of the word where denying it’s existence serves to benefit no one.
It is also commonly misconceived that white people can be subject to racism. White people are not oppressed, and reverse racism does not exist. Some people of color may view whites prejudicially but that isn’t the same thing as racism. “Racist” and “prejudiced” are not interchangeable.
It is also common that white people partake in offenses such as cultural appropriation and colorism. Cultural appropriation by definition typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups — often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.
This can be observed in many cases but the most popular is the frequent casual use of the n word by whites. There is much Ignorance behind cultural appropriation and the illogical defense to excuse the non-black use of the historically offensive n word and ignorance underlying whites questioning the black utilization of the n word.
Colorism by definition is prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. This can be commonly abused in phrases such as saying persons of color are “acting white” or that they do not speak as they have been stereotyped to sound like.
My hope for the future of OU’s student body is to stop contributing to the problem and instead become part of the solution by educating not only themselves on such topics but also by spreading awareness to actively stop acts of racism not just on campus, but everywhere.
photo by: flickr