Is it Only Racism We're Defining?

Most of this write-up is going to be stream of consciousness rather than one of my more objective write-ups or analysis on a specific topic.

I have been trying to figure out how to comprehend a concept that I have noticed in frequently in this day and age. It is where to define the issues we have in such confusion between people of different ethnic backgrounds even when we’re trying to understand each other. There’s a great video I saw recently on implicit bias:

Implicit Bias Video

It discusses first meetings with people of different ethnic backgrounds and in particular white people meeting Black people. On average, a white person assumes certain characteristics and hopes a person will like them. A Black person is hesitant to go into a conversation with a white person in fear of judgment. What was interesting is that I encountered this at a recent teacher coach training. I noted my hesitancy to communicate to white teacher coaches after finding that none of our teacher coaches looked like POC, but they all looked like white people. I noted the white coaches didn’t have this hesitancy and instead had an air confidence free from fear that simply doesn’t exist in other communities.

The difference this time is that most of the people in this room are honestly trying to make environments better for not only students of color but their universe as well. Many of these people are allies but there is a send of difference in our racial backgrounds that is hard to breach.  There were a couple of intriguing moments that occurred. The first is when having an earnest conversation for a younger white male teacher who genuinely wanted to do better about his subconscious moves to discipline the boys of color more at his school. He was literally frustrated and couldn’t figure out why his deep seated subliminal thoughts had created a thought. He actively works against it, but I realized that many white people have no idea that they have these differences or struggles and much less how to accurately deal with them. 

We also discussed the concept of whose safe spaces are we trying have respectful boundaries for? It seems that in our diversity conferences we have to water down or be kind to address racial issues in fear of hurting white people’s feelings. Which is bizarre because they have treated us far worse. I also wondered why we didn’t discuss gender, LGBT (we did a little and the stigmas in some communities is still high),  able-bodied, or one of the more intriguing ones; class level. I think we need not just have discussions in Black and white, but also the other issues as well as navigating the world as a Black woman is not the same as a white woman and both are completely different experiences than being an Asian man.

Other noticings for me is how my table had four white people and I sat apart from them, as did the Dominican lady who considered herself Black. She looked forward to talking to me as a familiar face but often had to talk with the white women. There was also a Black lady who addressed the video I mentioned earlier and noted that Black people may not be friendly at first to most white people because they have so much fear and mistrust with them through their experiences that has nothing to do with the person. She also said on the flip side many white people are not actively dismissing our experiences, they often are trying to meet us as people in the only way they know how.  

All of these discussions continued to pull apart at our differences but also our differences in each racial group as we had a talk about skin tone with Dominicans again (excellent Facebook status discussion on this) and how genders are extra layer with many races as they have different statuses and roles depending on the culture. This concept I want to have more discourse on as a Muslim man’s position is not the same as a Black man or a white man or an Indian man.. All of those differences can be stated for women as well depending on the culture. This explain why we even have so much infighting and in a sense intraracism. It’s not an easy road to simply be yourself and live in this country and depending on where else harder or easier. I hope we continue to try to define and parse out these differences to become a better world.

As a recent episode of Orange is the New Black shows we’re so tired of being oppressed by the ones who make the demands.  At the same time, as the Black Panther trailer shows, we are all powerful people.