"I think I may be racist? It’s really difficult, because I am all for equality and I certainly don’t want to think less of others based on their skin color, but I can’t seem to help it. I hate that I think this way and cannot understand why? Help! I want to love everyone!"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Here’s the thing, It’s not necessarily your fault. We were all brought up in a world where we’re taught from a very young age that certain types of people do certain types of things. AND WHAT’S MORE…I’m sure it isn’t just about race. If you saw someone wearing a yamaka you’d make some snap judgements. OR if you saw a skinny gay boy with glitter on his face and spikey blonde highlights you’d “KNOW” EXACTLY WHAT KIND OF PERSON HE IS. OR if you saw someone in a baggy coat sleeping on the street you’d have plenty of thoughts about their daily life.
Don’t get down on yourself, just recognize that you’re having these thoughts and move on. I have plenty of days where I see a sassy black girl bobbing her head on the train and I’m like ‘man, i bet that girl CAN SING’ and then i have to tell myself ‘noooo, dannielle, just because she’s black does not mean she can sing really well’ or i’ll see two boys holding hands and i’ll think to myself ‘i bet they can tell me when the new season of Idol starts’ and then i say in my head ‘DANNIELLE YOU STOP THAT’ or I’ll see my friend, Jose, and I’ll be like ‘when was the last time j. lo was on the cover of Latina Magazine’ and he’ll be like ‘February’…
We have stereotypical thoughts because we’re raised in a world with TV and Movies and Radio and Advertising. All of these things basically shove in our face ‘THESE PEOPLE ACT THIS WAY AND DO THESE THINGS’ and since we all spend 86% of our time watching TV and Movies and can not physically escape advertisements no matter how hard we try… we believe them and we live our lives being like ‘GASP A BOY WITH SAGGY PANTS HE’S PROLLY GOING TO ROB THIS PLACE’ and then he walks up to the counter and he’s like ‘are your rice krispy treats still on sale or did that end yesterday?’ …. then you think to yourself “I am an idiot and the world is stupid”
As long as you have those ‘calm down, self’ moments, you’re doing great. We are all regular ole humans who go through dumb ole shit and none of us are exactly alike. Just remember that and you’ll be totally fine.
I’m going to tell you guys a quick story. I used to belong to the Park Slope Food Coop, which is a totally crunchy-hippie place where food is organic and local and cheap as hell, and you are also required to work there in order to shop there. So, basically, everyone in the entire supermarket is both a customer and an employee… no one is really working for anyone else, you are all working for yourselves and each other simultaneously.
One day, as I stood at the register paying for my hippie-crunchy veggies, I realized with horror that the way in which I was interacting with these cashiers was markedly different from the way I interacted with cashiers at other supermarkets. Now, I wasn’t treating the cashiers at Key Food like assholes and screaming at them to pack my eggs properly, but there was something about those interactions that informed the way I acted and felt in a very subtle way. Here in the coop line, though, I knew that the cashier was my equal, and that changed something.
Now, hopefully most of you came to a screeching halt when I just said the word equal – hopefully most of you were like SHE SAID WHAT?! THE CASHIERS AT KEY FOOD ARE JUST AS MUCH HER GODDAMN EQUAL AS ANYONE ELSE. And you’re right – they are… and I know that… but inside of me somewhere there are other factors at work that inform me, even if only for split seconds.
Those moments, those actions, exist in all of us. The true horror comes when we are unaware of those feelings or we hold them to be truthful. The best way that we can exist within this world and within those feelings is to be constantly vigilant about those moments, examine them, talk about them, and untie those knots of racism that are present within all of us.
No one is less than anyone else because of skin color, because of income, because of dialect, because of religion, because of anything. You are saying that you believe that, and you hate the parts of you that snap to other assumptions. That is a wonderful first step. Keep examining, keep reflecting, and always pull yourself back to the truth.
PS: In case you want to read a pretty awesome (from what I remember… having read it about three years ago) article that addresses some of what we are talking about, look up “An Interview with Audre Lorde: Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich.”