The topic of Race in America is an uneasy one for most Americans. It is not a fun topic. It is not a light topic. It often conjures up emotions, memories and associations that are not usually pleasant. Yet, America’s long and storied history with Race (along with its consistent present), dictates that discussions need to be had, regardless of the discomfort they may cause.
Diaryofamadmind.com has begun to develop a strong and loyal international following. In some interactions with our international readers (particularly European), both People Of Color (POC) as well as Caucasian I have been asked why Americans seem to be so stuck on race and color.
It’s a fair question. I am never dismissive of the different perspectives that people have of The United States overall. It is also not necessarily an easy or simple question, but I always attempt to give an answer to those generally from relatively homogeneous societies, where even if there are a mixture of colors, nationalities and races, the overwhelming and historically dominant White populations have histories very different than our own.
From 1500, when European settlers first made their way to America, the country’s history has been undeniably intertwined with issues of Race. Those first Spanish settlers brought African slaves. Years later, the English would follow suit. The European settlers set a tone of racial superiority with both the Africans as well as the Brown natives that were never given the option of peaceful co-existence in place of total subjugation.
As the White Europeans settlers eventually took over complete control of what would become the United States, Race became intertwined in all aspects of continued control and authoritarian rule of their status by themselves and their descendants.
Issues of race are not innate in human beings. Put infants and toddlers of all colors and races in a room and no form of racial prejudice will exist. They do not know race or color. We as people are not born with bias. It is an absolute learned behavior. Taught from adults and passed down generationally more diligently than any property, family heirlooms or recipes.
When nearly 70% of America’s history starting with European settlement (1500-slavery’s abolition in 1865) involves actual enslavement of people, it is easy to see that the remnants of superiority and conversely inferiority would still play a major part in our psyches.
This learned behavior has been passed down for generations. It is not unspoken. The biases are real and come out in both direct and indirect forums. Images we see in television and movies re-enforce stereotypes and biases. Only real discussions of the topic will make a significant dent in the divide that exists through continued misinformation and unfamiliarity’s that can only truly be bridged with education, empathy and discussion.
So why don’t these discussions take place more often?
I recently sat in a room, the only male amongst a group of women of color. The topic of Race came up (through me I am certain) and it was immediately clear how even amongst POC of similar backgrounds, how differently we are affected by issues of Race. What was also clear, was how, after a few minutes, the topic became uncomfortable.
For POC there is not a subject matter that invokes emotion as strongly as the subject of Race. We are all aware of its existence, but many do not want to discuss it. The subject makes us mad, sad and frustrated to start. There is an air of inevitably in America in accepting that prejudice is here to stay, even if unacceptable.
So why do we need to discuss race in America? Because only through consistent and intelligent discourse can we see that the perceived differences between us have lessened substantially as the years have progressed. Attitudes, that are purely subjective, can only be changed through education and empathy and that education starts with discussion.
How do you understand anyone if you do not know anything about them? Differences in Race and culture are real but superficial. Empathy is only attained from understanding, openness and knowledge. Stereotypes need to be put in their proper place. It is not about denying the differences that exist amongst us, but putting those differences in the proper perspective to understand that the differences are counter-balanced by shared traits and goals that most humans share.
#race, #prejudice, #justice, #justiceforall, #discussion, #education, #america, #history, #empathy