Racism in 2018: My Perspective As A WOC

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It’s been a hot button topic in the United States for generations; our country was founded and built on racial divides. With the fall of slavery and the civil rights movement of the 60’s and 70’s pushing forward so much social change, it leaves many    non- people of color wondering why people of color (poc) are upset about racism in this day and age to the extent that some people are in denial that it still exists. While I can’t speak for all poc, I can only speak to my own experiences as a woc as it relates to racism and can 100% attest to the fact that yes; racism is still very much present in America and experienced by poc everyday.

Person of color

Image result for people of color

The term “person of color” is used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white. The term encompasses all non-white people, emphasizing common experiences of systemic racism.

Micro Aggressions:

Micro aggressions are the subtle  everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target people based solely upon their marginalized group that they were born into. They are so subtle in fact that as a poc, when you’re with your white friends, white in-laws or white co-workers, they may not even notice the snub. The micro aggressions are so subtle that they make you feel stupid for talking about it, but guilty for not addressing it, and you think about if for days. They’re the kind of thing that some white people do, to remind poc of who and what you are to them. They’re statements that if the person were white, they wouldn’t get asked because it would be perceived as rude and these statements are designed to make the poc to feel inferior often times.

Statements like, “where are you from“? are a form of micro aggressions or “no, but what are you?” or, “You don’t act/sound/dress like a black person”, or “why do black people (fill in the blank)” or, “how many kids do you have”. All of these are racist statements.

Sometimes in an attempt to understand poc, very racist statements and questions are asked. 1 person, cannot explain the practices of an entire race of people. Similar to how poc don’t expect white people to explain Jeffrey Dahmer or Adolf Hitler.

This is very real in America. This type of racism happens to someone you may know everyday. 

Double Standards:

A rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. White women getting paid more than women of color, in an already disproportionate wage scale to that of men. The fact that many poc feel like they have to work twice as hard for the same advancements as whites, in 2018 is absurd.

I often overhear white people saying to poc, “get over it.”, or , “work harder”, “stop being lazy”. In a world where the poc have to work harder than a white person just to equal what said white person may have, to say any of the former statements is just plain ole rude and unnecessary.

Poc are made to feel that they are “lucky” if they work their butts off for an accomplishment. Or questioned when they do. White people have asked me how I can afford something, or how did a particular opportunity get afforded to me? Often times assuming that I am the beneficiary of some handout, because surely I couldn’t be equal to them. Despite the fact that I have 2 college degrees, am very well read and well traveled. In their eyes, I am less than them, or their child, or wife etc, because of the color of my skin.

This is very real in America. This type of racism happens to someone you may know everyday. 

Implicit Racism:

This is the type of racism that includes unconscious biases, expectations, or tendencies that exist within an individual, regardless of ill-will or any self-aware prejudices. As it relates to judging me, because of what some black people may do, when the same is not considered by the masses as it applies to one particular white person. I experienced this when a women in my building told me “how beautiful I was for a black woman”, the implication being that black women aren’t beautiful. So while giving me what she thought was a compliment, she put down an entire race of women.

I did not accept her compliment. I instead told her that black women are some of the most beautiful women in the world. She began to then talk about the texture of my hair and said she could tell I was black because of how kinky my hair is, and if it weren’t for my hair, I wouldn’t look black. I honestly think she believes she was paying me a compliment. It infuriated me. It was rude, tacky, and extremely racist. This happened while I was minding my own business, waiting for the elevator in my apartment building and during the duration of the elevator ride because she felt like discussing her opinion of my physical appearance.  

This is the type of racism that if you’re not paying attention, it can creep up on you. It’s the type of racism that allows some white people around the country to call the police on poc for seemingly non legal reasons: (because a Harvard student is napping in the common area, because a white female police officer walks into the wrong apartment and shoots & kills a black man in his home because she was confused, because a black man does not argue with a white women at his child’s soccer game, because 2 black men are waiting for their friend at Starbucks). The danger of this can be life threatening to poc when the police are called on them, because of the unconscious biases that exist. No one is saying not to call the police for legitimate reasons, but to call them to remove someone from Starbuck’s is a white person exercising not only their white privilege but also their implicit racism.

A Google search of "beauty" yields these results. What's the implied meaning?

A Google search done at the date and time of this post on the word “beauty” yields these results. What’s the implied meaning as it relates to race? Why do you have to click on “black” or Korean” to see beauty in non white women?

This is very real in America. This type of racism happens to someone you may know everyday. 

Explicit Racism:

This is any thought or behavior that demonstrates a conscious acknowledgement of racist attitudes and beliefs. This is the type of racism that most people are familiar with. This is the “sit in the back of the bus”, “you can’t go to our schools”, or “drink from our water fountain” type of racism. While it is thought to be largely extinguished in The United States, some people would argue that to some degree it still exits.  To poc, it has been replaced by the micro aggressions and the implicit racism by some (not all) white people discussed above. It’s not cool to be a racist, and so the subtle, non provable actions of racism described above, allow a veil of protection to those that would desire to exhibit racist tendencies, while being able to deny that they are a racist-because you can’t often times, one cannot prove many of these implied and micro aggressive forms of racism.

I experienced explicit racism in 2017  when my intern and I went to a fabric supplier in New York’s garment district and when the man saw me, told me I couldn’t afford his fabrics and had no use for his fabrics for the category of clothing that I make. He had no prior knowledge to my finances and what was shocking about the experience is that I was referred to him from a regular customer whom we both know well. He assumed because I was black, (or a woman or young, or all three), that I have no money to buy his fabrics.

I’ve experienced more times than I should.

This is very real in America. This type of racism happens to someone you may know everyday. 

Types of Racism:

There are many other types of racism: Individual, Interpersonal, Institutional, Structural, Cultural, and Religious to name a few. Each one is unique to the people that are experiencing it. At its core, the people that truly suffer from racism are so used to it, that it’s often  expected in many situations and only if it doesn’t happen are you surprised. So how do we end racism?

I don’t have all of the answers. I can only speak to my experiences from my view of the world. Imo, acknowledging that racism still exists is a major part of being able to extinguish it. If we deny its existence, we will never be able to address the problems with it.

Can POC be racist:

POC can dislike white people. But that is not the same as racism. Why? Because racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity. To be superior implies power and control. Both of which poc have lacked in exercising any true racial abilities for all of American history. The ability to have the power to execute the dislike is what separates the difference. Traditionally, for poc to practice it in a systematic or institutional way is difficult because poc are not the majority in many institutions and thus lack the type of power to truly do damage to another race of people and exercise true racism.

I hear white say that they are victims of racism and I often wonder what that looks like for a white person and if they understand how hurtful and belittling that statement is when said to a poc? How did that racism affect their day-to-day lives: Do white people have to teach their children that some people will hate them for the color of their skin? Do white people have to teach their children how to behave in the presence of some law officials so they won’t get mistaken for someone else and possibly shot or murdered because of it, when considering how many mistaken identities happen to people of color because some people still think “we all look alike”? Do white people have to watch what they say because they are the only poc in the room and are concerned that their words will be taken out of context? Do white people get looked at weird when shopping in a nice store, because of the color or their skin? Do white people notice how many other white people are in the room, when entering? POC do.

My mother taught me when I was 5 years old that because I am black, I will experience negativity from white people. She taught me to understand how certain people will perceive me in this world because of both my color and my gender. She taught me that I will have to work twice as hard because of it. I was 5. Do white people have to teach their children these lessons?

Similar to sexual harassment, racism is not something to take lightly or joke about as a means to include ones self into the conversation or explain 1 aggression over their entire life. If 1 statement in your entire life made you feel the way you do, imagine how statements like that made everyday of your life would make you feel… that is a reality of poc. We get it from the news, from the lady in the elevator, from colleagues at work, from coaches at the gym/school. We are constantly reminded of something we have no control over and judged because of it. We’re demonized for being born with a different color skin.

This is very real in America. This type of racism happens to someone you may know everyday. 

What can WE do?

By having honest, non emotional dialogues with people of different backgrounds is a great start. Spend time with someone different from you to see their perspective. If you only hang out with people that look like you and think what you think, there’s no way that you’ll be able to open your mind to see the perspectives of people who are different from you.

White people need to acknowledge that racism exists and that when poc express their experiences with racism, getting angry, denying it happened or making excuses for it isn’t ok. Instead, listening, showing empathy, using the moment as a teachable one, and expressing genuine concern are great ways to begin to understand the frustration.

White people have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with the conversations and let go of your fragility surrounding race and race conversations. The topic isn’t about how you feel, it’s how millions of poc have been made to feel for generations and how that affects them today. Listen. Without anger or defense or a witty retort. Just listen. We can’t change the past. We cannot change what generations of one race did to another race. The unwillingness of whites to not discuss race in America hinders progress and without discussions, we can’t make change.

White people, use your privilege for good. If you see any racist behavior being exhibited, stand up and do something! Use your privilege to help someone that is being bullied, discriminated against or experiencing flat out racism. Staying silent is contributing to the problem and many opportunities to make change are lost when you remain silent.

Vote for and put people in power that are interested in representing all people, regardless of skin color. If you’re not racist, but your senator exhibits racists beliefs, then it hurts his/her poc constituents.

We’ve come a long way as a country. But we still have a long way to go.

What can you do to help stop racism?

What can you do to help stop racism?

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#ExplicitRacism #racisminamerica #MicroAggressions #race #ImplicitRacism

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