01 May 2011

I Am a Racist

On a whim, I decided to participate in this amazing Multicultural Awareness Carnival hosted by Bicultural Mom. I hope you will take the time to check out all the other great posts and raise your own awareness a little.

In my last semester of undergraduate study, I had a lot of space to fill. I decided to take a relatively generic graduate course in hopes that it would transfer as credit for my graduate degree. In this class, I became so aware of myself and of ever-present issues that are ignored I felt as though some day I could make a career out of it. Though that hasn't happened yet, I must say that Multicultural Issues in Counseling was one of the best courses I ever took.

It was because of this class that I learned how much psychology majors are sheltered to the work of other nations and how little they are prepared to work with anyone of a different race. In my four years of school, I was taught about white, western European men and white American men who led the way in all things related to psychology. These men studied white, middle-class people in their respective countries (predominantly male) and dared to generalize their findings to the entire human race.

Today, of course, we know this is not true and there are those who teach how to interact/counsel African Americans, Native Americans and Asians and to respect the differences in their cultures that may seem to go against everything we have been taught about psychology. However, these tidbits were few and far between and not necessarily in classes every psychology major took. How then can these students be released into the world and expect to have the knowledge necessary for every situation?

I would love to design a program that forces every psychology student (or even every student period?) to take a multicultural class. I would like to impart change on something so monumental, but we shall see if that is the path I follow.

On another note, this is not the topic I wanted to focus most on for this post. I cannot think of many movies that have had a profound impact on my life, but the one that I repeatedly call to mind is The Color of Fear, a film I saw in this class. This movie changed a part of who I am more so than almost anything I have ever seen (You can also read about one of the books that changed my life here).

This film chronicles a type of group therapy related to racism. Eight men (two white, two Hispanic, two Asian and two Black) sit in a circle and discuss their own, very personal experiences with stereotypes and their effects. This movie is very, very powerful. I believe everyone should see it and everyone's children should see it, when they are old enough. It is because of this film that I learned the truth; I am a racist. And the truth is, you are too.

Before you go into full attack mode, stress mode, hate mode or whatever, listen (or read, as is the case here). There is one man in the film who refuses to admit that he is a racist, yet he holds ridiculous stereotypes of all races as truths. You can feel the frustration of all the other men in the room as they try to help him realize what he is saying and it is, at times, agonizingly painful to watch this man act so ignorant.

Another man in the film openly admits that he is racist almost from the start. It is a fact that he has declared about himself and is trying to work through. This man was my inspiration for admitting to myself that I am racist and since that time, I have been putting forth the effort to change. This is no easy task, mind you; It is not as though one day you can wake up and stop being racist. But even if it takes the rest of my life, I will never stop fighting it.

I have never uttered a racial slur. The "N" word offends me. I empathize with those cultures who are consistently under attack by Hollywood and the media and I did not find 'Borat' or his other movie the least bit entertaining. I have never felt more fear in my life that I did the first time I saw a documentary about the Ku Klux Klan. The Holocaust holds a special place in my heart because every time I think of it, my soul cries.Yet, I am still a racist. Say it with me.

"I am a racist." Yes, you are. Be honest. The first step is always to admit you have a problem. My mother taught me to be tolerant of all people. Church taught me to be tolerant of all people. Society taught me to be racist. And it probably taught you too.

When I walk into a store, am walking down the street or driving in a city and I see a Black person, a part of me cringes. I know in my head that this is a ridiculous response, yet I cannot help it. When I go to a store where Hispanic people are working, I feel stand-offish. And you know what? I am half Hispanic. 

That is racist.

Why do I do this? Again, my mother never told me to be afraid of Black people or to disrespect Hispanic people, especially because I am one. But the news has. When we see African Americans portrayed on the news, how do they look? Do they look angry, mean, thug-like? Are we told to be "on the look out" for men who look like this because they are dangerous? When Black people are interviewed on the local news, how often are they from a lower class neighborhood where they do not speak "high" English? What's that? You don't see African Americans interviewed on the news? I don't much either.

Change the channel. How many shows about Black people do you see? Hispanic? Asian? And the ones you do see, how are those individuals portrayed? Do they all have Ph.D.'s and sit around discussing philosophy? Now let's turn the table. What about White people? How often do you see the same plot lines over and over again that do nothing but make us seem like complete idiots?

"Oh no! I lost my wedding ring! Watch me go through a million hilarious hijinks to try and get it back but learn a lesson in the end that I could have learned in the first place had I just talked to my spouse." Ha ha ha. Not.

What are we learning in this country? What are we teaching each generation, to fear? To disrespect? To look for stereotypes, and if we can't find any, make them up?

Change starts with me. And change starts with you. We can expose our children to every available culture, every inch of history and every known false stereotype to make them understand that we are all human. Every idiosyncrasy in every culture is "normal." It may not be normal to me, but it is normal to someone and that should be respected. I do not want to be a racist, but I am. Every day I make that effort so that one day I can honestly say otherwise.


  1. Awesome post! You are right! We all have been conditioned in someway by society in how we view others. That does make us racist. I try and fight those preconceptions....
    I plan on checking out the movie you talked about.
    Enjoyed the information you provided here.

  2. Thanks, Tara! You will not regret it! I need to watch it again myself. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing Amanda. I really enjoyed this. I am tweeting it right now (since I am a twitter whore and all).

  4. You're absolutely right when you said, 'change starts with you'. It is impossible to change the things we don't acknowledge so I give you kudos for wanting to search yourself and committing yourself to a path of enlightenment and change.
    When you get a chance come on by and check out my blog.

  5. LOL Terry. Yes, that is you exactly. :)

    Thanks, Char. I love your tag line!

  6. Really great post Amanda! I'll be looking into that film. I know that this was a lesson that I learned well in Black History courses. I had the same discussion a few years back and it's not an easy one, especially when others aren't quite sure how to take it. Thanks so much for sharing this and for being a part of the carnival! =)

  7. I'd love to read this but the background is ridiculous.

  8. Christophe, come see my background, it's just as "ridiculous". :)

  9. Wow. I am so impressed with your very public display of honesty! Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Your post reminds me of the time the Rev. Jesse Jackson admitted that when he was walking down the street in Chicago, alone, and saw a group of young black men walking toward him--he crossed to the opposite side of the street. So many black folks were upset with him. So many white folks used his story to justify their fear and racism. But he pretty much said the same thing as you--we all have our judgments, classification systems, and prejudices. We all have to work to overcome them. Thank you for provoking so many thoughts!

  10. Thank you so much Chantilly and Jen!

  11. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject Amanda - I really enjoyed your post and Jennifer's over at Hybrid Rasta Mama (your comment there was totally awesome, btw :) )

    I have hated prejudices I've found in my own life while still feeling them, and I am with you in working and hoping to see them overcome. You've really given me a lot of food for thought!

  12. Thank you, Kelly! And when you think about it, "I am a racist" sounds "much" better than "I am Prejudiced." ;)

  13. Very interesting post; especially your 9th paragraph where you list the reasons/justifications of how "non-racist" you are. I'm not arguing your points...but rather it makes me question what exactly "racist" means. I'm Black and Jewish, yet I love Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat). The "N" word used to offend me. Then a few years ago, my aversion to it waned. Now I'm even more shocked that my White BF of 6 months uses the word regularly, but it doesn't bother me. In fact, its even a comfort at times. Like when one of my old flames kept texting my phone in the middle of the night, he texted back, "Look nigga, send another text to my girl's phone and I'm gonna murder you". Oh and the guy that sent the text was White (but it was effective...he stopped).

    To me someone is racist if they deal (or approach) or think about people distinctly and differently in terms of race. Also I believe that you can apply stereotypes...but in terms of culture, not race, and realize that there will be many exceptions to the rule. A person's race and a person's culture don't go hand in hand.

    But ultimately everyone, regardless of their race, has a preferred way of how they want to be seen...and also of how they see themselves. Our goal as fellow human beings is to learn how to respect this desire, and discover what it is that we must do to meet the person halfway. So it should be a partnership; not someone looking down or up to another; or with pressure applied for the minority to be more like the majority.

  14. You're absolutely right, Shona. How wonderful that you are able to move beyond traditionally hurtful words and instead say that those things have no place in your life and you will not be bothered by them.

    I wish more people thought like you. I really appreciate your words and your taking the time to read and think about this post. Thank you.