Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Red and Yellow? Black and White?

in a recent post, james ford wrote of "institutional racism," the racist attitudes that are ingrained in our culture.  much as we would wish it otherwise, as a society here in the united states we white americans think of those who are not part of the dominant white culture as monolithic groups with certain characteristics that make them "others."  even as the members of that dominant culture are steadily becoming a members of a minority group, we cling to the stereotypes which make it impossible to see that there is no "other," that we are all the same, all human beings with more similarities than differences.

as i read ford's post, i thought of how often i exhibit this cultural racism.  i remembered that, as i wrote last week's post for this blog, i had to go back and edit it several times to remove the adjective, "russian," when i had used it to describe the evils of the soviet system.  it was as if my subconcious mind equated russian ethnicity with the most vile aspects of soviet authority.  i had to remind myself that these evils were not inherently russian, but rather were the expressions of a political system that ruled by fear and intimidation, and these are qualities of all authoritarian regimes.  there was nothing inherently "russian" about the tyranny of the soviet system.

i thought, too, of how often i insert the word, "black," into conversations when it is irrelevant.  for instance, i was complaining to a friend about some problems in our neighborhood, problems which seem to be growing more widespread.  as i talked, i described one particular home, making certain that the person with whom i was talking knew that those who lived there were black.  now, that fact had nothing to do with the problem i was railing against.  in fact, all of the other homes where there is this problem are occupied by whites, but i never described any of those homes by referring to the race of their occupants.  the institutional racism of the culture and my own participation in it came to the surface in that conversation, and i realized my own racism as i thought of that conversation after reading james ford's post.

my prayer for myself and all of us who may unwittingly place members of other cultures and races in a group of "others" is that we will see our inculturated racism for what it is, that we will make it our intention to change our thinking, and that we will make the effort to rid ourselves of the habit of seeing others as something beside what they are; we are all members of the same race, the human race.  shalom

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