Racism is the systematic mistreatment of certain groups of people (often called people of color) on the basis of skin color or other physical characteristics. It can be subtle or blatant, conscious or unconscious, personal or institutionalized.
Racism is not our fault. It is something that has been around since just about the beginning of time. There tends to always be a dominant group that discriminates and uses its status to keep those who do not look like themselves down.
However, in some ways there are things people of color can do to make some changes.
First, realize that it is not your fault. Even the actions that follow are not your fault. They all stem from the racism and white privilege that has been perpetuated for the longest time. Our actions are just a byproduct of these two things.
Although it is not our fault, there are steps we can take to change things within ourselves.
First is to recognize that most of us suffer from internalized racism. This is the process where people of color believe and act on the negative messages we receive about ourselves and our group. We also transfer racism in such was as insults, criticisms, slurs, violence – the list goes on. How many times have you heard a person of color tell another person of color that they are too dark, or too light, or that their lips are too big, or that their hair is too nappy? How many times do you turn on the news and hear of black on black crime? I heard one person say that they commit the crimes on people of color, who look like them, because they want them to suffer the way he suffers; that he wants to take out his frustrations on the people who look like him. Crazy.
When people are hurt from the effects of racism, they often decide to transfer or re-enact that hurt onto some one else.
There are other things we people of color do that are examples of internalized racism. When we see someone on TV speak on certain issues and they make some type of mistake or say something that is against the mainstream, we say that they are misrepresenting our people in a negative way. Yet, when someone asks us individual to speak for our people and answer a question in a way that represents every person of color’s view on _____________, we get offended.
We talk about peoples’ appearances. People who do not straighten their hair are seen as nappy, instead of naturally beautiful. People who have natural hair typically are only seen as beautiful if they have natural hair that is the texture of Tracee Ellis Ross (Joan of TVs Girlfriends). Skin color is always an issue – sometimes people are really into the lighter skin tones, sometimes the darker skin tones. But historically, the darker your skin the more teasing, and harsh treatment you will face.
What we all need to do is first hold our arms out. Look at your skin. It is beautiful. Recognize the beauty that makes people of colors skin. The variety. The tones. Amazing. Beautiful. Then do the same with your facial features and hair textures and tones.
Next we need to address the comments people make about each other. If you have not been witness first hand, then you have probably seen the show Yo Mamma on MTV. This is playing the dozens. This comes from slave times when after the long journey over to this side of the world some enslaved people would inevitably have ailments – missing eyes, cut off limbs, scars, mental issues. When they were to be sold these folks would be grouped into twelve and sold that way as one. The other enslaved people who were not malformed and were sold individual started picking on these dozens, and we see where we have come from there.
Playing the dozens, joning, cutting someone up, shit talking – what ever you call it, it is the same. People find something about the person and make fun of it. Typically what they make fun of deals with their features or their mother’s features. You should really sit and think back to the jokes you remember. If you don’t remember the punch line, how did the jokes start, that is the important part. What was it talking about? The ones I remember most deal with someone being
a. too black
b. too yellow
c. too ghetto
d. too white-acting
e. too black-acting
f. too ugly
g. too fat
h. too skinny
What is the point? It is all to demean someone and make them feel terrible about themselves. And what are they making them feel bad about? Just the things that the dominant society has targeted people of color for since the beginning. We have internalized their beliefs and turned it all into jokes.
But for many it is not a joke. The comments are real. Some families chastise members of their family when that person has skin that is either too light or too dark. They tell their children not to stay in the sun too long for fear of getting too dark. They tell them they need more sun so they are not too white. They tell them that they must have been smoking or else their lips would not be darker in color. They tell them that they have to put chemicals in their hair for it to be acceptable. They tell them they must cut out their locs so their hair can be acceptable. They must talk a certain way and act a certain way in order to not be seen as trying to be accepted by or fit in with the dominant culture.
It is not our fault. All these things are a result of what that dominant culture has done to us since the beginning.
However, it is our duty to try and love each other. To understand the hurt. To accept each other. To not redirect our hurt onto others who are already suffering.
Once we truly love ourselves and can heal ourselves, it will be easier to attack the monsters of white supremacy and white privilege. That is a whole different thing in itself. Something that the dominant culture must come to understand they experience and benefit from. That, too, for some, takes time. They need to recognize and see the resulting pitfalls many people of color face due to their privilege, and the concerns people of color face every day that the dominant culture has no idea about or ever has to consider. Once we are all aware of ourselves then we can truly change our society.
We must love and understand each other and ourselves.