It is difficult to start a conversation about race and racism in modern Britain today. The biggest obstacle is that we are always pointing fingers at America. It’s hard not to when Donald Trump won’t even shake a black woman’s hand…
The person in the most powerful position in the world, makes derogatory statements to (and about) blacks, mexicans, women, Puerto Ricans… I could go on and on here. But I’m pretty sure you already know the deal.
We see headline after headline about police shootings and KKK rallies in America and tell ourselves that such atrocities don’t happen here in the UK.
Oh but they do.
Recent reports document that since last year’s vote to leave the European Union, racial and religious hate crimes have risen by 23%.
But why are they/we like this? Because we’re taught to be that way… it’s a learned behaviour.
A person who is racist has been taught from a young age to be that way. I don’t believe that someone is just a racist to be racist. Children listen primarily to how their parents talk about others. When adults use negative or hateful language, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the presence of children they may or may not be aware of how they are affecting them. That person might say ” Well, my parents tell me that they are bad because they are black.” They might go back to some family member telling them to stay away from the blacks or the pakistanis or the muslims… et cetera et cetera.
The source of racism stems from the family. If you teach your child that his race is better than another, you are teaching him/her to be a racist.
Sometimes there are rare individuals who split from the traditional teachings of the household. Nevertheless, the perspective of racism is one that is conditioned by ones family or whomsoever they may spend the majority of their time with. If one does happen to disregard their family’s teaching, it may be focused to a more moral point of view. Racism is usually accompanied by a family background of racist figures; very rarely do we see an individual discriminating against a particular race, while his or her family accepts equality of all races.
The media can take a large chunk of the blame here too. Negative racial stereotypes are perpetuated this way. When you turn on the television certain races are depicted in more negative ways than others. The media coverage of some racial groups lead people to believe that they commit crimes more often than others. Seeing this on television, makes it seem like ALL people of that race are the same. In reality this is only one aspect of any race. All racial groups commit crimes. All racial groups have problems. No one is above anyone else. There are many black CEO’s and CFO’s in the world. White people sell drugs and have children out of wed lock too. There are black “baby daddies” and “white baby daddies”. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Latinos smoke weed or are illegal immigrants trying to take your jobs.
Can Racism be unlearned?
No. I don’t believe you can completely unlearn racism. But what you CAN do is grow more tolerant and accepting of those people that are different than you.
In order to do that, you must come to the understanding that the vast majority of people, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, or sexual orientation, are just trying to take this journey of life …. just like you are. There are good and bad people in every group. Learn to judge based upon your interaction with individuals rather than some preconceived notion that you have about a particular group. Also know that there are those in your racial group that will take advantage of your trust as likely as any other.
Here’s what you CAN do… MAKE IT PERSONAL. People WILL NOT change unless and until it affects them personally.
Read. The internet is your friend. Read all about race relations and the oppression of people from many different perspectives. Even if you can’t completely unlearn racism, you will end up better educated.
Make friends of different backgrounds. Spend time getting to know people from the communities. Many times, it’s fear of the unknown that causes our racism.
Find people who challenge you. This will help you tremendously. It will force you to question their pre-existing biases and opinions.
Vary your news sources. If a news channel refers to people of colour as thugs, see what other news channels are saying about it and try and form an educated opinion based on multiple data sources.
Finally, speak up. Don’t stay silent when you see injustice occur. Practice makes perfect. If you speak up against obviously oppressive or bigoted attitudes, you will force yourself to start questioning your own assumptions (as you already have). Just the fact that you’re reading this shows you want to change.
This is a delicate subject. But unless we have the difficult conversations, nothing will change. Let’s keep the dialogue going let’s talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram