We Can’t Ignore Racism Because It Makes Us Uncomfortable
Normally I write my articles about my current young adult heartbreak or an epiphany I have while alone in a coffee shop. Today I am choosing to step out of my bubble of comfort, out of the warmth of my imagination and the coffee pressed against my lips. I have been listening to podcasts and immersing myself in books recently, which is quite therapeutic, but I have been bothered by certain subjects, particularly those we tend to refrain from conversing about.
As I’m typing this, I realize I am speaking from an ignorant mind, which has led me to have a great deal of hesitation throughout this article. But is it right to ignore a subject because it makes me uncomfortable? Is it right to ignore the topic because I’m afraid I’ll word some part of it wrong? Is that simply feeding my privilege…my privilege of having the choice to eschew prejudice and not talk about it? I mean do those of color have the same option as I do? How can they avoid something that they encounter every day? I feel ridiculous for thinking racism was not as prevalent nowadays, but maybe that was because I had never experienced it myself. It’s a gray area that impacts the lives of people and sometimes that gray area isn’t so clear.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see. On your way to work on a foggy morning, everyone slows down and drives very attentively. It should be no different in discussions of diversity. It’s necessary to understand you are surrounded by a variety of vehicles, that some might have a clearer window than others, and there are some who have never driven in anything but sunshine before today. To be aware that every single car came from a different street and are headed to a different destination is essential. Furthermore, it is necessary to empathize with the routes that have more potholes than others.
I once read a metaphor on the concept of equality. Is giving a blind child and a child who can see, the same exam equal? Yes, they are both the same exact exam. Hence equal. But how will the blind child complete the exam if it’s not in brail?
Think about it.
That’s where equity comes about. Rather than give you a bland definition of the term that you’ll probably forget, imagine this: if I give $10,000 to two different individuals, one of the lower class and one of the middle class, is that equal? Yes. For both of the individuals that money will go towards college. However, only one of the two will end up going to college. The individual from the lower class still can’t afford an education.
It doesn’t seem all that fair, you know? That each of us just happened to be born at some random place at some random time to some random parents with some random socioeconomic status with some random ethnicity. I try very hard to wrap my head around this all…like what I should do or how to properly respond to the disparity. I am beyond grateful for the tools I was provided with no cost. I do my best to utilize them and not take them for granted. At the end of the day, though, it does not feel like…enough. I do not know what I did to deserve such privilege…or wait… I didn’t have to do anything! And that’s where the problem stems.
I’ve been thinking about the difference between if one of my white friends versus one of my friends of color were caught with marijuana, specifically the different responses and the different consequences. Who would receive the harsher punishment? Is it probable for one of them to not receive anything but a warning? Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act established in 2010, the sentencing imbalance between crack cocaine and powder cocaine was 100:1 (ACLU 2012). They are the same drug, just in different forms, yet why was there such an extensive variance in punishment lengths? This gap was a result of ethnic disparity. African Americans were more likely to possess crack cocaine, while whites were more likely to possess powder.
What is truly alarming is that this law was only altered a decade ago even though its intentional targeting was beyond obvious. If it took this long to change this VISIBLE racial disparity, then imagine how difficult it will be to fix those that aren’t written on a piece of paper.
I’ve been dwelling a lot about the privilege I have had regarding toys. As a child one idolizes Barbie and her glowing blonde hair, her glamorous pink clothes, and her light skin. Little girls are taught that perfection comes in the color white, which is far from the truth. Now we see a huge change in Barbies regarding not only ethnicity but also in gender and body type. It is promising. It is a single step, but at least it is in a positive direction. Children should become familiar with diversity because people tend to be fearful of things that they don’t understand, which facilitates the dehumanization of other groups.
This article does not have a conclusion because there can’t be one– at least not yet. The discussion is only at its beginning and to pretend the solution is as easy as a snap of fingers would be unjust.
It requires some to be willing to swallow their pride and open their ears, while those of color must accept other’s ignorance and take it as an opportunity to share their side of the story. It takes sitting across a table from one another, sipping mimosas with breakfast, understanding that you are both imperfect humans, in order to have a genuine conversation.
Racial microaggressions exist in places we might never be able to see unless we put in the effort to listen to those who must endure them on a daily basis.