Here’s the thing about racism
People aren’t born with it
Neither does it grow overnight
It’s planted slowly
And nurtured subtly
On minds that are rather pure
At that moment when you decide
To choose the color of skin
Over what lies beneath
Little did you know
That in doing so
You gave birth to discrimination
And you fostered condescension
So I hope that one day
Racism becomes a thing of the past
But hope alone wouldn’t be enough
We have to do our part
And raise the children right
For that is where the key lies.
It is said that every piece of art has some source of inspiration. It could be a person. A place. A thing . A scenery. A fleeting thought. A dream. Pretty much anything. Well, mine seems to be inspired by a statement made by Martin Luther king Jr. and I quote ” I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I have always wanted to write a piece on ‘racism’. Whether it be a poem, a prose or an essay was something I didn’t give much thought to. And here I am with something close to a prose. I started off with a poem because…. well- I couldn’t help myself and somehow -it feels like home.
I suppose part of the reasons for the reluctance is that for a very long time, I simply could not comprehend how shallow one can be to stoop so low as to let prejudice and discrimination be directed against someone based on the belief that somehow one’s own belief system is superior. You can already see the problem with that – it makes one self centered and condescending amongst others.
Racism is better thought of as an umbrella term that attempts to describe many types of biased behaviors and systems. There are several forms but I will keep it short.
* Individual racism- this is the type that occurs when one’s beliefs and attitudes are based on biases and stereotypes against another race. It’s the type that most people think of when they think of the word ‘racism’. It’s the most common and perhaps the most benign.
* Interpersonal racism – simply put, it’s racism between individuals. It’s when one actively chooses a person of a particular color. And that is the basis for the choice.How pathetic!
* Institutional racism- in this form, institutions and organizations black tag people of one color when it comes to opportunities.
* Cultural racism – here, there is an authority to create and define the culture in a society. Sometimes that is wrongly used to look down on other cultures.
* Structural racism – this form arranges the other forms of racisms in perpetual systems. It appears neutral but it is in fact one of the most dangerous forms of racism in that it creates other subsets of discriminatory biases that can not be grasped quickly by simply looking on the surface.
The aim of this write up is not so much to make you aware of the forms of racism – although that too wouldn’t hurt, rather to draw your attention to the most subtle and yet most dangerous type of racism that there is- The type that we are least aware of; the one that lurks beneath the surface. The roots of which grow so deep it bears the fruits of unconscious bias. The kind that allows for the perpetration of bigotry and hatred. It is so subtle and deceiving that one beautifully decorates their prejudice with preference -for example; he’s white so he must be very good at what he does. As if being black and good are mutually exclusive events.
The type that makes an investigator unconsciously more suspicious of the black person on arriving at a crime scene inhabited by people of different races.
Racism is a problem that has plagued the world for centuries. Not to devalue all the campaigns and advocacy against racism happening all around, but to let us know that there is a need to do more. To do better. We can simply start by sincerely admitting that we all have one form of conscious unconscious bias or another. Then we embark on the journey to identify them . Understand them and devise a means to work on them. Remember we don’t need to fight our demons- we simply need to understand them. Gradually, as a people- we would have a significant shift in paradigm and ultimately in the way we view the concept in its entirety – and would make all the difference.
I pray a day comes when we’ll all look at each other and realize we are essentially all the same and remember the fact that there is only one race ; The human race.
And I would say this again
People are not born racists.
The society plants it
The society nurtures it
And we are the society.
Whispers of the soul.