Wednesday, June 17, 2009

But We’re Not Talking About Blacks

Why is it that people think that just because they are not talking about your particular minority that it is okay to be offensive?   Though we tend to think of racial issues as between Blacks and Whites, how we conceptualize racism is far larger than the black/white binary.  Niagara Falls (otherwise known as the armpit of Canada) has a lot of anti-Asian sentiment.. 

In many circles it is common to focus on them as foreign and therefore less than regardless of how many generations their family has resided here.   We don’t consider that so-called Canadian norms are the least bit strange, or even image offensive to others.   What matters is that our “foreigners”  eat that salad like they’re dying of starvation and then conform, conform, conform.

Time after time I have intervened only to be asked why I am upset since the conversation was not degrading to Blacks.  What these racists don’t realize, is that every single act of racism is problematic for a person of color because we are not divorced from one another.  If we passively allow one human being to be devalued, we are giving permission for all bodies to be demeaned on the grounds of race.

It can be further irritating to be in the position of calling out racism against another minority only to have them laugh along with the commentary and deny image that they are offended.   This of course makes you look like an over sensitive bleeding heart liberal ,while the race colluder comes across as cool and hip because of their internalized hatred.  This may discourage you from speaking out, as after all no one wants to look foolish but this is the real test of your convictions.

It does not matter that the comment was not directed at you, nor does it matter if the group that is being racialized feigns a lack of concern; if you know said commentary to be based in white privilege, or racism, you must speak out.  These ideas floating through our society unchecked cause harm.  We have had to many instances of hate speech leading to violence, to blindly walk away as though  no one is victimized.  

Having the courage of your convictions is never an easy thing to do;  it is far easier to profess your beliefs in the company of like minded individuals than to face ridicule from those that believe that their privilege outweighs the human rights of another.  While no one person can change the world, in our own small way, we have the potential for change.  It may not be readily evident when we speak out that we have made a difference, however just creating a safe space for another will always reap rewards.   The offending party may not listen to a word you say but they can never say that they have not been told.