Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have You Thought About Your Racism? (Part 1)

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From time to time, I will find myself itching to write about an issue that is irrelevant to our "married life" blog. It is the writer in me that has a need to write about issues that I am passionate about and want to discuss about. A true writer does not hold herself back or censor her words in hope to gain approval and love from the readers. No, that's not me. I write because I want to share what I have learned. Ideas are meant to be planted in form of seeds and only to be hatched into a full-fledged discussions among people. 

I want to talk about an issue that is pressing, grave , and critical to our country. This topic is often brushed aside due to pride, embarrassment and anger. More often than not, this topic ends under the rug. It is not right. It is not fair. It has to be talked about. It needs to be out in the open. We need to face our history, our regrets, our mistakes, and our fears to fix what has been continuing to happen in our country. This is a difficult topic especially for white people.

The issue is about admitting to your own racism.

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Before I can proceed, I want to share a quote by Buddhists. Buddhists said once, "It is not experiences that we learn from, but the willingness to experience things."

I attended a workshop once about Racism and met this man from Nigerian. He had beautiful espresso skin that gave a blue tint under the light. He watched as I signed about my own experience about oppression. My interpreter voiced what I signed:

"I always have to dress nicely. I have to. If I don't then hearing folks--you guys who can hear just fine--would assume that I am lazy and uneducated. When I say that I have Master's in counseling, hearing folks always compliment on how smart I am as if being Deaf means you have to equate your intelligence with your hearing loss. Just because I don't speak, so many people assume that I am uneducated or 'dumb' and they feel sorry for me. I've been also told that I am a snob because I am a hard person to get to know. In reality, I may give that impression of being a snob because I've had to develop a thick skin and it's hard for me to open up to just anybody."

The Nigerian man nodded his head slowly and replied, "You have had a taste of what it is like to be black. To be a black man in America is difficult. I have had to develop a thick skin because of what I had to go through as a black man."

An American woman, also black, chimed in, "I have to look good constantly. I have to dress up to get the recognition as a professional woman. If I don't then I am perceived by all the negative stereotypes that women in my culture normally gets."

I left the workshop with a lot of thoughts in my head. Why hasn't Racism been addressed in our schools? Why isn't it discussed more often? Why is that this topic is often met with fear and shame?

I read cards provided by the workshop a few days later and some questions touched me:

Will it ever be possible for a black person to look at a white person without resentment and for a white person to look at a black person without guilt?

Does white people fear the physical presence of Blacks or do they fear the anguish they have kept within themselves for centuries?

How can you judge me as a white person for the way I act and say when you do same thing? (This may seem a bit off-putting. The keynote speaker at the workshop, Lee Muh, encouraged raw honesty among people of color and white folks to get the heart of racism and share feelings no matter how unpleasant those feelings may become). 

Have you ever been conscious of being white? (That I can really understand because of my Deafness; you'll be surprised how awkward it can be standing in a room full of hearing folks talking and you have no clue what they are talking about. Suddenly, they look at you and they know that you are different.)

Will a white person ever say this one day, On behalf of all white people, would you accept my apology for all that we have done to you?

I have accepted my racism. My being Deaf has certainly helped contributed to my  understanding the people of color. While I cannot understand what it is like to be "black", "yellow", or "brown" and certainly don't live in their shoes...I do know how it feels like to be brushed aside, neglected, and rejected judged upon how well I can speak and hear.

Bottom line, Racism hurts both ways. 

Racism is an ugly topic that has to be openly discussed and shared with everybody regardless what color they are. It's time to speak up, be honest, and educate yourself and others."You don't fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity." -Bobby Seale