March 27, 2012 1 Comment
With the recent events being covered by local, national, and international media, it appears racists are crawling out of the woodwork, and it’s from both sides of the political spectrum. But so have many non-racist people been labeled as racists for using stereotyping and incorrect politically-correct labels. But is stereotyping racism? Are labels racist? The answer might surprise some people: Usually not.
Intent. Remember that word, it is key to determining what is actual racism and what isn’t.
Unsurprisingly, people looking for excuses to be offended by racism are generally the most racist people. Reverse racism is still racism. Policing the words of a different race, with intention to find offense is just as racist as someone meaning to offend someone of another race. Did you just see that? Intention, or intent.
Wait, what was that? There is more than just offensive racism? You better believe it! Just like a ball game, there is both an offensive and a defensive side. Defensive racism is still racism, it just isn’t as widely acknowledged because it isn’t used to force racism onto a victim, but it is used to create an aggressor by trying to make oneself appear as a victim. Confused yet? Well, once again, when properly crafted, offensive and defensive racism can look nearly identical. The key to finding who the real racist is, is by determining the intent of parties involved. There goes that darn word again: Intent.
Racism comes in all colors, Black, white, red, olive, yellow, polka-dot, and tartan. If I left any skin colors out, it wasn’t my intent to display racism, it was just an oversight. See that? Intent.
Take for example a white person who, in the course of trying to make a point about social problems, gives a list of factual statistics that state all the problems of a known community, for instance the black community. This seems like a very negative list coming from a white person, so everyone jumps on the racist thumping bandwagon. Black are offended that a white person would talk about the problems of a black community and scream racism, while whites trying very hard to show just how non-racist they are start crying racism too.
But what is racist about the example I just gave? Because it is a white person giving statistics on another racial group? Believe it or not, that in itself does not constitute racism. It is no more racist than if a black person had recited the same list of statistics. Facts are facts, and statistics are statistics, no matter who recites them. Facts and statistics cannot be racist of their own accord.
So what would make it racist then? It depends on one little word. Can you guess that word? If you guessed “intent”, give yourself a gold star! If it were used to create a negative dialog about the other race, to harass, hurt, or otherwise punish, then it is racist. If it is used to call attention to an issue so that awareness is raised and solutions can be looked for to help improve a situation, then one can hardly cry racism.
Not all white on black, black on white, etc., crimes are race crime or hate crimes. Sometimes a criminal just doesn’t care what color you are and only wants what you have and they don’t. Of course, the mainstream media won’t tell you that, there are no increased ratings in such humdrum stories. They have to sensationalize the story, embellish it with overtones of hate crimes and other assumptions to make it grab attention and drive up those news channel ratings. That’s why you’ll see national coverage of crimes committed by one race on another more than you see national headlines of similar crimes that consist of all parties being the same color. Make no mistake about it, news is agenda driven. Peace and harmony don’t make for very good headlines. News outlets benefit from your misfortune, so the more they can sway public opinion to turn one group against another, the more they benefit in the form of sensational headlines and other newsworthy events.
Another example might be in order. Describing a person as black, white, asian, and so-forth is not racist. Labels are not always racist, but can be useful tools. If a white guy is talking about someone, and describes him as a tall black guy, someone is usually going to get faux-offended and cry racism. “Why can’t you just describe the guy as a guy, why are you labeling him black? That’s racist and offends me.” Well no, if he is a black guy, then there’s nothing racist about saying he is.
Lets go a little deeper. You’re at a gathering with 300 people. 200 of them are white, 70 of them are black, and 30 of them are asian. You’re trying to point out a prospective client across the room to your co-worker. Half the people are wearing red shirts, but only three of those people are black. So, how do you describe him best? (Note, I am not figuring women into this as it gets too far off track, and doesn’t help make the point one way or the other, so just assume all persons are male at this gathering.)
- That guy over there. (OMG that’s so sexist, it’s that PERSON over there!) Yes, had to throw that absurdity in there too. Well, that narrows it down to 298 people, assuming that you and your co-worker are part of the 300 initial count. Great!
- That guy in the red shirt over there. Well whoop-dee-doo, that narrowed it down to 148 people. Like that helps much.
- That black guy in the red shirt over there. Now we’re getting somewhere, that narrowed it down to 3 people! That would sure save time and effort, wouldn’t it?
That’s why when you hear on your police scanner the cops talking about chasing a black male, it isn’t racism, though many bemoan that it is. They are just using a useful label designed to help them find the right person more efficiently.
Notice how there was no racist intent in labeling that person? Labels are great, it’s how we distinguish green beans from wax beans, and white milk from chocolate milk. People are no different, describing someone’s appearance is not racist. Only an idiot looking to be offended would find it insulting.
You want a racist label then? Sure I’ll give you one that’s used every day by non-racist people. “African-American” as broad sweeping term for any black person in America. If you want be offended by something, be offended by that.
Were you born in Africa, then became a naturalized citizen, regardless of skin color? Then you are an African-American. Even white people can be African-Americans!
If you were born in America, and are black, then you are a black American, or just an American if you so prefer, not African-American.
My best friend is black and was born in Cuba, as were generations of her family before her. She came to America and became a naturalized citizen. Guess what? She is black, but she is not an African-American. She is an American (by way of naturalization), or if you insist on being more specific, she a Cuban-American. Gosh! So by calling every black you see an African-American, chances are you are labeling them incorrectly.
You would argue that all black people originated from Africa? No they didn’t. Maybe their ancestry did, but they, themselves did not. Some black people’s ancestors were slaves too. Do you call those who’s great-grandparents were slaves “Slave-Americans”? I didn’t think so.
Racial profiling may be inconvenient, but rarely is it racist. Racial profiling, like all other types of profiling work. Racial profiling is based on a form of stereotyping, which is not racist either. Stereotyping is based on statistics, which are a means of assessing what percentage of what is likely to be or do something else. Stereotyping would not exist if there were not some form of truth behind it, so even if you have to be inconvenienced by racial profiling, that’s because its an effective tool. Even though it may seem unfair, very little in life is truly fair. Life itself is a competition from the time we are born til the time we die. We compete for everything, entertainment, jobs, money, recognition, food, housing, parking spots, potential mates, or getting the last pack of batteries on the store shelf when a hurricane is on its way. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Racism is hate. Racism is intentional. Not all perceived racism is racism at all. The vast majority of the world is not blind; color is a visual indicator. Survival mechanisms of our most base of instincts make us wary and initially distrustful of things that are different from us. Experience makes us wary too. How many times do you have to be bitten by a dog before you start fearing and distrusting that dog? What if you were bitten by several dogs? Would you start fearing dogs in general? Most who have experienced that do. Wariness and distrust is not racism, its instinct, an integral part of human nature. To ignore instinct is to deny ourselves our built-in survival mechanisms.
It’s no different than why any sane white person would cross the street if a pack of black hoodlums wearing gang symbols and giving menacing looks were blocking their path, but wouldn’t think twice about walking by a group of black men in business suits holding briefcases while laughing and smiling. That’s not racist, its street smarts.
It all boils down to intent and perceived intent. Life isn’t fair, and we all have to do what we can to make our lives easier and to ensure our survival. If wanting to be efficient and having the will to survive is racist, then so am I.