Racism is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. As easily as it is used to refer to a certain type of mindset held by others, it goes much farther than simply the way one thinks or acts towards other groups of people-the ‘diversity’ about which we speak. There are multiple levels at which racist ideologies and racism intersect. In order to be anti-racist and create an anti-racist culture, the anatomy of racism must be dissected and fully understood. It is then that racism in its many forms can be identified.
Racism exists at four levels:
- PERSONAL: Private beliefs, prejudices and ideas that individuals have about the superiority of whites and the inferiority of people of color. It manifests as oppression among people of color. It manifests as internalized racial superiority among whites.
- INTERPERSONAL: The expression of racism between individuals, that occurs when individuals interact and their private beliefs affect those interactions.
- INSTITUTIONAL: Discriminatory treatment, inequitable opportunities, unfair practices and policies and impact within organizations based on race. This routinely produces racially inequitable outcomes for people of color and advantages for white people. People within organizations take on the power of the institution when they reinforce racial inequities.
- STRUCTURAL: A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequality. It is racial bias across institutions and society. It involves the cumulative and compounding effects of an array of societal factors including the history, culture, ideology, and interactions of institutions and policies that systematically privilege white people and disadvantage people of color. V
Some folk say that this system is ‘broken’. That is absolutely untrue. Looking at its original purpose, the system works exactly as designed. Only some people comprehensively benefit. Disappointing to most people of color, systems perform satisfactorily to whites, and thus continue to support white supremacy.
The levels of racism in this country are so deeply entrenched, that sadly, most whites don’t consciously recognize any impropriety or inequity. The general mindset is that all has been fair and just and everyone has equal access and opportunity across the board. This is a reality based on an ‘outsider’s’ view. That view is counter-intuitive to the fact that the actual outsiders are people of color who exist largely outside of the ‘mainstream’ in society.
What racism effects is violence. There is psychological abuse, emotional and physical abuse, and racism effects violence at all levels. What is expected is that people cope, learn coping skills, adapt and accept. The focus should be on healing. Why ask people to cope with injustice and inequity when both contribute to trauma! Grounded in racism and supremacist ideologies, ‘systems’ were created by men, not a higher power. It is completely within our power to eliminate all of those laws, policies and practices that result in race-based disparities and inequity.
Once again, there are multiple levels of racism. The primary level to address is at the individual or personal level. Altering racism at this level means confronting immaculate perceptions. These are automatic thoughts and perceptions/perspectives resulting from inaccurate information, the exact source of which is unknown. Similar to the concept of ‘implicit bias’. One can ask, ‘Where did this idea originate?’ ‘How do we know this?’ Answer: Fact-check.[not from the ‘usual’ sources] The most important question should ask, “How do I challenge and change my mindset?” Start by stepping out of your comfort zone-unafraid.
It is a mindset change that is required, and this can come about through questions and answers. The former requires introspection and the latter requires an openness to new information. How do we change these racist-perpetuating The best way to alter inequity and mitigate the harm caused by racism is through education and empathy.
Conquering racism in America will be difficult, although it is a relatively simple process. It will test our strength, honesty and bravery. It will require us to conquer our fears with the capacity to confront them with a newly found sense of resolve. Self confidence is necessary, and in all we think, do and blindly follow, taking for granted, we must be open to question and challenge.
I consider the most effective strategy that will help forward the transformation of this country from a deeply racialized society into a truly democratic one is empathy. Each one of us will have to ask ourselves and/or imagine that every aspect of society, laws, policies, practices, programs and generalized perspectives, impacted and influenced our lives. Imagine your child, your family, or you who lived the life that you’ve heard about.
Picture yourself, your own family, your children who are being subject to the circumstances and availability of resources, access to services and housing, food sources, clean air, employment, police presence, quality of education, business loans, medical treatment, and that this was compounded by almost daily micro-aggression. Picture that ‘they’ were provided access to the very first COVID-19 testing sites, for months, outside of your community, before your family got access, and it was proven that your community was hardest hit. Your family and friends were dying at much higher rates than that group who has access.
Picture your children in school settings with no textbooks or the textbooks that they do have, rarely if ever provides information about people who look like them. Imagine you having verified facts about your history that was deliberately documented and told wrong, with your accomplishments attributed to someone and/or something else. Imagine not being able to trace your roots and told and taught that enslavement was a benign institution, illogically romanticized and whitewashed, so as to never shed light on or hold anyone accountable for their own horrific misdoings.
Imagine your child or your grandparent having been enslaved by people who simply wanted to exploit their labor. Imagine never knowing the name of anyone in your family beyond your grandparents. Imagine never being taught of the logical, honest and significant influence your ancestors had on this country–every aspect of the culture -every brick, not only made but used to build every building called a main house, mansion, government building or place of business. Yet, it is never mentioned.
Imagine being present in a society that misappropriates your unique cultural expressions. Imagine the discovery that women and children were routinely violated[raped] at will. Imagine that one or more of those women were an ancestor. or your grandmother or child. Imagine your great, great grandfather being beaten to death and you were forced to watch.
IMAGINE ALL OF THESE THINGS, AND MUCH, MUCH MORE, characterized a large part of your daily reality….and in the 21st Century, you or your child was asked to ACCEPT AND COPE WITH IT! Would you be outraged and then become an activist advocate for change?
We, this generation, should be leading the charge to rid society from the ravages and violence of racism, injustice and inequity, at every level, and….
If you did not take time to reflect or fact- check anything written here,…then there must be a “hole in your soul”! We are ALL human beings-belonging to the same species-one of a kind. In the bigger picture, we are all FAMILY!