Racism: The Poison Apple All Sides Are Force Fed
Whoever said racism was over had some nerve. Hundreds of years of oppression and trauma does not disappear overnight; integrated schools and voting rights does not a cured country make. The United States has a long way to go in terms of isolating and irradiating the illness that is Racism, like they isolated many a plague in our comparatively brief, independent history.
But this is not to say progress has not been made. In fact, the progress is most apparent in the younger generations, specifically the latter half Generation Y continuing into Generation Z. Though the cut offs for each generation vary, Gen Y will be classified as people born between 1980 to 1994 while Gen Z will be between 1995 and 2005. These two generations much to everyone’s knowledge have had the internet at their disposal for a significant part of their lives. This factor in mind, I believe these two generations are on large, the least racist generations of Americans. Of course there are exceptions to every rule.
This subject is something me and my best friend talk about routinely. We’re black women born in Gen Y, who spent our formative years in a predominantly Jewish-American and Italian-American suburb in central New Jersey. We shared a circle of friends all through middle school and high school, including both of us, the group of six had four Black people (three African-Americans and one Haitian-American), two Muslims, one Pakistani person, and one white person (Irish and German-American with a few outliers).
The cross sections amongst my friends made us particularly diverse. I had other friends of course; some were mixed, some Hindu, some Jewish, some gay. We all coexisted, and growing up around each other and inside of our own melting pot in New Jersey made me realize one thing when we all graduated and went to college: we were prepared for a world that didn’t look like us.
I know this is true because my friend has relayed stories to me about people she’s befriended on her campus. They’re all fine people she tells me, but one in particular has taken up a more than disenchanting stance against all white people. Let’s call her C. C doesn’t “trust any of them” and considers all whites to be racists. Naturally, my friend, let’s call her M, was offended as she thought of our friends from back home while reading her new friend’s texts.
Now C grew up in Nigeria and moved stateside in high school. And I think our different mindsets stem from our different places of upbringing. Growing up surrounded by other Africans until you’re a teenager and then moving into an area of the States with a high minority population can be seen as a bias. It’s completely different from M and I’s upbringing and we all earned our way into our respective universities. But as a result, I think C feels the micro-aggressions of American culture more harshly than me and M. The result is to return the judgement and hate that she’s feeling.
Let me be clear, micro-aggressions are by no means less harmful. They are back handed compliments (“You’re pretty for a black girl”) or pitting me against other black women (“You’re not like the others.”) and the like. It’s subtler than the n-word and lynchings but no less harmful. And the call to recognize these aggressions is being heard around the U.S. and the world. Just look at movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlsRock; they’ve become global phenomena. But, to the defense of every white friend I have, they’re ignorance is something they are trying to remedy. And they do so my asking me, M, and anyone else they can questions.
Questions are how we learn as humans. But someone will not ask a question if they do not feel comfortable. My friends knew early on they could ask me question pertaining to my race, and through the years I’ve been happy to answer them, to at the very least alleviate some of the ignorance plaguing us all. It makes me happy that my friends are comfortable enough with me to ask me the tough questions, and as someone who want them to understand, the least I can do is explain.
Look, Racism has deep roots in European colonization and the world is still recovering. And there are racists out there, make no mistake. But the micro-aggressions minorities encounter on a day to day, are ingrained in the culture and that’s no one groups fault, not anymore. Hating the supposed culprits will not educate them, nor will it contribute to a solution.
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