“Racist”, “sexist”, “prejudice”.
These are becoming everyday words for a lot of people. It seems like we can’t even say “his skin is darker than mine” without being called racist. I touched on this a little in my post about speaking about the experiences of others (https://inkyspider.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/is-it-sexist-for-a-man-to-argue-against-aspects-of-feminism-do-we-have-to-be-part-of-a-group-to-criticize-it/) and I want to know what it really means. So here are some definitions (from merriam-webster):
(1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially :discrimination against women
2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
So, am I sexist or racist? I don’t think so, but maybe some would disagree. Today I am going to talk about race specifically; I am sure I will bring up sex at a later time.
I do not believe that a persons’ race makes them inferior or superior, nor do I think that I hold preconceived notions about a person based on their race without sufficient truth. But, I do think that I, a white person, am different to a non-white person. Intellectually? No. But by necessity I am. I grew up in a pretty much all white neighborhood, and went to a school that was 99% white people (white girls, to be more accurate). Growing up I never once experienced racism firsthand (I heard offhand comments people made, but I never witnessed any ‘racist acts’) nor was I ever treated differently from the people around me. I do not think I was racist, I was one of those people who believed that we were all the same, and I could not fathom why color or ethnicity mattered.
Our experiences shape us. Whether you believe in nature or nurture – or a little of both – you have to agree that things that happen to us, especially as we are growing up, can have a lifelong impact.
Growing up as not-white seems to yield to profoundly different experiences. While these experiences may differ depending on your socioeconomic status it would appear that everyone who grew up in the US and Europe (I do not know enough about other countries to comment) and who was not white experienced some form of prejudice. Recently, there have been a lot of articles and videos on what it’s like to be a black man in the USA. These are experiences I have never had. I can walk down the street at night without people crossing the street to avoid me, or without car locks being turned on, and without police stopping me. These experiences change people. Profoundly. Until I moved to Baltimore I had a naïve trust in my world. You would only get in trouble if you did something wrong, if you are good then you will always be treated as such.
This video explains a little about how wrong I was: http://www.upworthy.com/if-you-have-to-tell-your-kids-this-stuff-then-you-probably-arent-a-white-per
Experiences change people. If I had to grow up not knowing if I could trust the police, or knowing that people would assume I was going to hurt them until I proved otherwise, I am certain I would have been a different person.
Please notice, I am not saying a worse person or a better person. Just a different person.
I am different from people who are not the same race as me, not because I’m better but because of the profound difference in how I was treated. Maybe this counts as a preconceived notion, I don’t know. This “notion” comes from my experiences, my observations, the stories of others; it doesn’t feel preconceived.
So, yes, I think that there is a difference between people of different races. A difference in the way we view the world a difference in who we trust, in who our families taught us to trust.
So, does believing that we are different make me racist?