A 21st Century Memoir.

“O” is for Oppression

OWriters of Kern Blogging Challenge (A-Z)

I was on the phone the other day with a friend who was talking about someone who had made some abhorrently racist remarks about a style of dress that was stereotypically attributed to those of African-American decent. The words being repeated by this friend from the original source over the phone to me were with no doubt terrible, but the discussion about how this friend viewed race, although not as distasteful, didn’t sound so great either.

She had told me that she didn’t “see” race, and that to her, race didn’t matter. The word sat for a while and I let the conversation continue, but something about hiding all the things that have occurred in the past and still occur today and sweeping it under the road felt unsettling. It’s as if to say this friend chose not to see people of color, their struggles and chose to deny racial privilege and to discount the numerous experiences that people have with racism every day.

mixed raceWhen my friend heard “it doesn’t matter because you’re my friend and that’s all I care about,” I heard “that it also doesn’t matter because I don’t really want care about anything that you may have or are still going through concerning racism.” Not choosing to see race or racism and doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but it instead keeps the oppression of minorities going.

Research has revealed that individuals endorsing color-blind racial attitudes had more difficulty communicating in cross-racial dyads; these individuals also inaccurately underestimate the frequency of both blatant and subtle racism in society…Helen Neville and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva [also] argue that ‘color blind racial attitudes’ constitute the major form for perpetuating modern racism. We can all agree that race ‘should not’ matter, but the ‘does’ not matter component is problematic for several reasons. First, whether we admit it or not most of us not only make presumptions of a person’s race based on their physical appearance, but according to research we also make it based on tone of voice as well as based on someone’s name.”

And I know that race shouldn’t matter, but it does matter, just as your gender, sexuality, religion, etc. shouldn’t either. Those people in the minority still face prejudices regardless of whether you choose to see race or not. However, personally acknowledging that it does exist and not dismissing those who may be facing prejudice and oppression is step in the right direction toward ending prejudices.

I do want to point out that it still a good thing to see the value in someone regardless of what they look, act, think or identify as. Seeing that person for who they truly are is wonderful, but dismissing people’s experiences with race, denying your privilege, ignoring the place that race has in shaping our identities, or letting inequality go unchecked isn’t the best way to get rid of bigotry.

Just see race for what it is – a neutral, but very real thing that holds way too much power in this beautifully diverse and messed up world – and act accordingly.

3 responses

  1. Amen. If people say they don’t see race, are “color-blind”, they are saying they can’t empathize with me. They are implying that what I’ve experienced doesn’t matter. They can’t be there to stand up for me. Right it shouldn’t matter what race a person or friend might be, but it does.

    Thanks for this, Jasmine.
    xoA

    Like

    November 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm

  2. Blind means you can’t see, doesn’t it? I suppose one should take the high road and forgive your friend what I assume was meant to be a positive statement, though she missed the mark. What would (or does) she think about this post? Hopefully, it would be an eye-opener.

    To be generous, I would look at the attitude as old-fashioned. When I was a pup, a theory of America as a “melting pot” was popular. What was intended was a metaphor of all races, nationalities etc blending together to make a better whole. The Sixties attitudes pushed back, favoring the “fruit salad” concept, where each sub-group retained their unique identity/flavor while complimented the others and thereby creating a better whole.

    Vive le difference is a good motto, as long as those differences do not allow (as they too often do) for inequalities and oppression.

    Like

    December 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

    • “Blind means you can’t see, doesn’t it? I suppose one should take the high road and forgive your friend what I assume was meant to be a positive statement, though she missed the mark.”

      I agree with this, and I’m definitely not mad at her, however, I wrote the post because I do wish that more people will become a little more enlightened and aware of all the different people around them and for everyone to respect one another.

      I do like the “fruit salad” concept, where each group gets to retain “their unique identity/flavor while [being] complimented by the others and creating a better whole.” The problem that we still have in today’s fruit salad is that some flavors are being covered by others and/or being left out of the salad entirely.

      Like

      December 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

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