I admit it. I live in a happy, shiny bubble. People in my reality are kind to each other, help each other out, are in touch with their feelings and “own their shit” (don’t make others responsible for how they feel.) I don’t often connect with people who still have the ability to be offended by the arbitrary, or who judge others without being acutely aware of it and doing their best to change that. The world I live in is full of love, regardless of gender, skin pigmentation, cultural heritage, religion, social standing, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age, body shape or size, or any other piddly ass crap that people can use as an excuse to hate each other. In my world, prejudice does not exist (I know, right?!?!). Every once in a while, however, I do become aware of another reality – the one in which discrimination is very much alive. Today, I’d like to talk about that world (it’s been a little while since I’ve tackled one of these big issues. I figure I’m due). I’d like to offer my point of view, how and why racism and other types of discrimination happen, and discuss some ideas on what we can do about it (individually and collectively).
Warning: I’m going to be using the word “black” in this post, instead of African American. I realize that some people in the U.S. find this offensive (although, interestingly enough, those people seem to be mostly white…), and so I’d like to explain. 1.) Not all black people in the world are actually African or American (it’s true. You can google it), and 2.) I maintain the opinion that to insinuate that the word “black” is derogatory assumes that there’s something wrong with being black, making that insinuation racist (it would be a bit like me being offended because you’ve pointed out that I’m a woman). But, fair warning, if the language I use causes you to be so distracted that you’ll miss the points I’m making here (which are totally awesome, by the way), you should stop reading now.
What is racism?
For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use “racism” as a kind of catch all phrase for discrimination of any kind. The general anatomy of discrimination is basically the same. The main emotion behind those who discriminate is fear. This, incidentally, is also the emotion behind those who are discriminated against, although I won’t be able to address the victim side of this equation today (I can do that in a future blog post). So, without further ado, let’s dissect what makes someone racist.
We aren’t born racist or prejudiced. We aren’t born full of fear and hatred and distrust. These are learned beliefs. Being prejudiced against someone is simply a manifestation of a vibration, the vibration of fear and in a grander sense, powerlessness. There are different degrees of this kind of fear: Ignorance, Scarcity and Powerlessness. Let’s take a look at each in turn:
Racism born of Ignorance
We tend to fear what we don’t know. There are a lot of people who are afraid of black people or gays or Hispanics or Drag Queens because they’ve never met one or been personally exposed to one. They may have seen images on TV (often full of incredibly negative stereotypes, but it’s getting better) or heard stories (hearsay, focusing on isolated negative incidents that have nothing to do with the person’s skin color, background or whatever), which they are not basing their opinion on. We all do this, by the way, before you judge too harshly. Our brains will take whatever bits of information they get, accept them as truth, and will fill in the blanks. If not enough information is available, our minds will still often create a blanket belief. If you’d only ever met one man and he was a giant douchebag, your mind would’ve created the assumption all men are douchebags. Your brain would apply the one bit of information you’d received and create a blanket belief. Even if you consciously decided that you were not going to be prejudiced against men, your brain would still apply this assumption. Upon meeting another man, you’d be wary and more careful than you were the first time, until you’d gathered enough evidence that contradicted your assumption. You can tell your brain not to think something all day long. If it thinks it’s protecting you from danger with a belief, it won’t budge, until you’ve present it with the evidence it needs to come to a different conclusion. So, if you went out and met 3 really nice guys, your brain could now come to the conclusion that not all men are douchebags, and that the man you had previously met just happened to also be a douche. His doucheyness and maleness weren’t connected. Your reaction to men would now change.
There are a lot of people out there who are racist out of ignorance. They’ve never been exposed to an actual black person or homosexual. Their brains have taken tiny bits of evidence and created assumptions. The real problem arises when this kind of belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your belief is strong enough, your brain will now filter out all contradictory evidence, unless you deliberately choose to look for it. This means that if you go to a party and there are 99 awesome black people there and one asshole who just happens to be black, guess who you’re going to meet?
The Solution to Ignorance: The Individual
This kind of racism is fairly easy to combat: When we discover this kind of prejudice within ourselves, all we need to do is expose ourselves to more evidence, a broader range of experiences – those that will contradict what we currently believe and which support the view we want to adopt. If you’ve grown up in an all-white community and black people make you nervous, don’t sit at home and beat up on yourself for being a horrible person. Go out and make some black friends. Look for awesome people of all colors. Look for the positive role models, for “normal” people who don’t fit those narrow stereotypes. You’ll soon learn that your assumptions were all wrong. Faced with contradictory evidence, your brain will have no choice but to come to a different conclusion. You can’t just tell yourself that black people are ok, you have to show yourself evidence of it. And if you go out looking for that evidence, you’ll find a surplus of it (because the awesome people of this world FAR outnumber the douchebags).
The Solution to Ignorance: Society
While we can’t force other people to give up their prejudices, we can certainly influence each other. First and foremost, if you want to influence others to be less judgmental, heal the judgment within yourself. If you don’t, you won’t do much good (it’s not about telling other people how to be, it’s about being the way you want to be and showing them the way).
I believe that a big part of the solution to ignorance based racism (which, I just want to point out, is the most widespread kind by far) is to offer more positive role models in the media. As I said earlier, this is already happening (isn’t that awesome?!). And yes, I do know that negative stereotypes are still a problem, but let’s focus for just a minute on the fact that more and more sitcoms and dramas are depicting darkly pigmented people and homosexuals as, well, ordinary folks with ordinary problems. For many characters, the fact that they just happen to be black or gay or Hispanic or whatever is secondary, and the issues that this particular individual is going through take center stage. In other words, just because a character is black doesn’t mean that his problems are about being black.
It sounds simplistic, but for a huge number of people, what they see on TV and in Movies and in the media serves as the only evidence their brains have access to. And while I don’t want to push against negative stereotypes (which would perpetuate them!), I do want to encourage more positive depictions of all people (hey, how about a show where people are all genuinely nice to each other, and where douche-y behavior isn’t seen as the norm?)
Racism born of Scarcity
The belief of scarcity, that there’s not enough good crap to go around, is pretty ingrained in our global society. Like all strong beliefs, it’s self-perpetuating. We believe that there’s not enough, we feel like there’s not enough, we look for evidence that there’s not enough, causing us to believe that there’s not enough and round and round and round she goes. We’ve manifested gobs and gobs of evidence that there’s not enough for everyone, and that when one person wins, someone else has to lose.
Those who feel like they’re on the losing end (the 99%) feel a sense of powerlessness. Now, if you’ve been here (on this blog) a while, you’ll know that powerlessness turns to anger, and that this is actually a good thing if allowed to happen unimpeded. Anger feels power-FULL, and can rip you right out of that place where you don’t think you have any control. When the anger isn’t expressed but squashed (as it almost always is, most of us were taught that anger is a thing to be avoided) it builds and begins to look for an outlet – usually a destructive one.
So, there’s Joe Schmoe, who is afraid of losing his job. He doesn’t know who to blame, but his natural tendency to turn his powerlessness into powerfulness causes him to look for someone to blame. Just as an aside, if Joe blamed someone for the scarcity in his head, journaled about it and or went and punched a punching bag while fully allowing his ugly thoughts and reaching for a better feeling, he would move up the Emotional Scale and would eventually no longer be angry. He would move ahead on his journey out of the belief of scarcity. This is not what generally happens, though. Usually, Joe will assume there is nothing he can do about the scarcity (it’s just the way it is), holding on that belief, find someone to blame, get angry at them, not really allow himself to express it constructively, will not reach for a better feeling, and will let the pressure build until he explodes and releases his rage destructively, causing negative consequences like being jailed, which will once again start and perpetuate the cycle of powerlessness.
If Joe has some already present assumptions about some minority, he’ll probably blame them. All societies do this and our rage is generally directed as those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We all blame someone. Often it’s the immigrants, or those who live across the tracks, or those who look even slightly different than we do, those with a different religion, culture, country of heritage, language, skin pigmentation, the people across the street, the other political party, etc., etc., etc.
What’s more, we’ll come up with the most ridiculous reasons to hate each other. This is how you get the argument that gay marriage threatens straight marriage. This argument doesn’t actually make sense to anyone. But neither do our beliefs. Our brains have to come up with an excuse, a reason to justify why we feel the way we do. Those who are feeling threatened will find a way to blame someone for how they feel, whether doing so makes any sense or not. Most people have no idea why they feel the way they do – they’ve never stopped to really analyze it. Digging around in our psyches and facing our fears can be uncomfortable and scary. Shutting our brains down and chanting “Because God said so, so just shut the f*$# up” is a lot easier.
The Solution to Scarcity: The Individual
If you’ve heard yourself argue the point that your (or society’s) problems are caused by a certain people, and you became uncomfortably aware of that, give yourself a pat on the back. I know, the inclination will be to beat up on yourself, but the first step to overcoming judgment is to notice that you have some, so well done! The process of shifting this belief is the same as always: show your mistaken brain some evidence that contradicts your beliefs. For example, if you find yourself ranting about the unemployed slackers who are a drain on the system, ask yourself this: Do you actually know any unemployed slackers like that or are you just parroting something you hear elsewhere? Often we feel personally offended by larger issues, but have no actual experience with them in our own lives. If this is the case, you almost certainly have false assumptions.
For example, in the US, there’s been a strong belief, perpetuated since the 1980’s, that welfare recipients are almost all lazy bastards who are sponging off the system and just refuse to get jobs. The reality is that these kind of leeches are quite rare, relatively speaking. Over 80% of those on food stamps are families with jobs who simply aren’t able to make ends meet. They do not have 2 cars, or flat screen TV’s, and aren’t popping out more children for the assistance money. Do such people exist? Yes. But in much smaller numbers than most people have been led to believe. And yet, it’s just an accepted fact that most people on welfare are lazy bastards who could work but don’t want to, and are living the good life on our dime. Do some research and look up some facts before you rail against an issue. Question your assumptions. Is what you’re railing against actually true?
The fact is that no societal issue can be blamed on a particular group of people. Sure, it’s easier to just blame the brown folks or the poor, but it solves nothing and it feels awful. The problem always comes down to beliefs, and unless we change those, nothing will change (you cannot change a manifestation without changing the vibration that caused it). But again, it takes a bit of work to dig up the real cause of a situation and then line up with REAL solutions.
The Solution to Scarcity: Society
Solving the issue of scarcity in society is not an easy task. Again, spreading evidence that contradicts these beliefs is the key – making it readily available to those who are seeking solutions, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. This is why I share documentaries such as Thrive and the Venus Project. I do my best to offer a different point of view, one that feels better and allows us to actually find solutions. It’s why I’m writing this blog post – if people really begin to think about and dissect their reactions and emotions, there’s a good chance they’ll figure out that their assumptions have been false. They’ll begin the journey towards aligning with Who They Really Are. It’s not about forcing anyone to change, but more about offering and opening up options.
Racism born of Powerlessness
When the scarcity belief is strong enough and the self-perpetuating cycle has continued for long enough, feeding off itself, sometimes for generations, a deep and all-encompassing sense of powerlessness is the result. This is when you get groups of people (almost always groups. It’s easier to feel powerful in a group) beating up and even killing someone just because of their skin color or sexual orientation. The rage that has built up is immense. The solutions to this kind of powerlessness have to be systemic, just like the problem.
No one becomes this powerless on their own. Beliefs of this magnitude are fostered and passed on over generations. Whole communities come together and focus on the negative, on what they don’t want, on the fact that they don’t have enough. It’s never just about one thing, but always a whole snake pit of beliefs – an ugly, intertwined mess of pain and suffering just looking to be released. Generations of poverty and religious or culturally condoned oppression cause this kind of powerlessness. You’ll notice that it’s often the most powerless that lash out against some minority group. That isn’t to say that someone who seems to have more than enough couldn’t be a racist (you cannot see inside someone’s vibration. Powerlessness can lurk in anyone, no matter what it looks like from the outside. There are many who could be considered wealthy who feel poor, for example), but systemic prejudice of the severity that this section is talking about is generally found in the most obviously powerless segments of society.
The Solution to Powerlessness
I seriously doubt that anyone with this strong of a vibration would be reading this blog, but just in case, and as a point of interest to the rest of you, if the mere sight of someone darker than you makes you want to grab a baseball bat, you need to get away from the trigger. While I generally condone looking for contradictory evidence, in this case, I believe that the negative emotional reaction is far too strong to do any kind of really beneficial work. You can’t shift your beliefs while being triggered (this is always true). So, the first step will be to go off somewhere where you can feel safe and do the work there. Because this kind of powerlessness is never about one issue (it may manifest as one issue, but there is never just one underlying cause), the solution here would be to very generally find something, anything that feels better. In this case, “better” would almost certainly be a huge anger release (or twenty). If that anger, however, was released constructively, there would actually be a shift in that person’s emotions, leading to less and less anger, and finally letting them out of the grip of that powerlessness. Most people and especially those in the most impoverished segments of society are never taught to do this, though. In fact, they’re taught to do the exact opposite.
For many people, an anger release is something that leads to jail or prison. It never occurs to them that they don’t have to wait until they have the urge to kill someone or beat someone up or just rob somebody to get the money they want. And so, they avoid this kind of healthy release at all costs. Then, when the fury does finally explode out of them, they often go to prison, where they are locked up, made to feel even more powerless (thus perpetuating the problem) and scrunched together with other angry, negatively focused individuals. This is a recipe for disaster!
The solution has to be about empowerment, messages of hope and optimism (along with evidence that supports them), an overhaul of our prison system (focused on true rehabilitation, returning a feeling of power and control instead of the opposite), an overhaul of our education system, creation of opportunities and opening of doors. This isn’t an easy fix, but I totally believe it’s possible.
The anatomy of a discrimination free bubble
I wanted to offer a little bit of an explanation about this bubble I live in. There are going to be those who misinterpret this bubble as a state of mind where you just ignore the problem – a kind of denial. This would be akin to saying “Well, sure, racism exists, but I’m white and blonde, so what should I care? I’ll just go live in my bubble and pretend that nothing bad ever happens.” This isn’t what I do.
I am aware of the ugliness of the world. I just choose not to focus on it in a way that perpetuates it. When I see something horrific happen, I do my best to try and figure out what this experience has caused me to want instead and line up with it as quickly as possible. When I see someone being racist, for example, it makes me want a world where people connect with each other, and have no need to be afraid or to hate at all. Then, I reach for the feeling of that situation. The more successful I am at achieving and holding that feeling, the more likeminded people I attract into my reality – people who truly do not care about the arbitrary, but see those around them for Who They Really Are. I focus on a world where more and more of us decide to let go of judgment and look for the gift that every single person in our reality has for us. And as we come together, as more of us wake up to what’s truly important (and all the crap that really isn’t), racism and prejudice in all its forms will shrink and fall away until one day, the only place you’ll be able to encounter a racist will be in a museum, right next to Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthal – a remnant of a distant, less evolved era in our past.
Hahaha, I did not read the post yet, but I just wanted to say that I found the picture of the cat to be pretty amusing. 🙂
This is one interesting topic to tackle. Even with modern times and a lot of people are enjoying freedom, we are still trapped in a mindset of racism. This has long been an issue that never seems to fade away and this is a sad fact.
It’s getting better, though Alexis. That’s what I focus on. Humans, even as a group, are becoming more and more tolerant. Think about what it was like for non-whites and women even a hundred years ago. And then look at today. 🙂
And just as a thought, I really wonder how many people in this world can say that they are NOT of mixed race/culture?
I saw this fascinating TED talk a couple of years ago. It stated that we all started out very, very black. All humans used to be black, and only started to produce less melanin as they travelled away from the equator. It was an adaptation to there being less sunlight. Less melanin means that the skin needs less sunlight to produce Vitamin D. Darkly pigmented people need a ton of sun light, and are much more likely to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.
There has never been a “pure” white person. Ever. If you want to look for purity, you’ve got to go black…(Sorry Hitler. Ha!). 😀
Yep! According to gene research, as far as I have heard, every single person on this earth can be traced back to Africa. But even without that, history pretty much proves that every country/race has been invaded by someone, and those invaders have intermingled and populated with the current citizens. So someone “other” has been introduced to the gene pool right there, so I can’t understand how anyone can see themselves as just one race anymore.
And I love that!!!
Such a great subject, because the greatest thing about this world is its multi cultural, colored, religious, sexuality, etc, etc based population. Sameness and only one right way are BORING!!! Being in the military and being exposed to so many different people and cultures was the greatest thing in that whole expereince!!!
I have so many different race, culture, religious, sexuality choice friends, that I can’t look at anyone and see just one aspect of them. Because of that, when I see any form of racism, it can reaaly hurt. I have friends who are interacially married, and when I hear that they still get some racial harrasment, I am amazed!!!! To me it is just, I guess normal. But at the same time, I have family members who can be very racist, which I am very gald they hid while I was growing up…but now that I am older and more aware of it, it can make me worry about it when I have my friends around.
As I learn LOA and I see racism, I know now that there is something in me that is still focused there, and am working to figure out what it is. I have always known racism exists, but it’s like a back burner kinda thing that only comes to the front when it is right in front of me. But I have to keep reminding myself that my awareness of it in a negative way is showing that I have resistance to it, and am pushing against it.
Assholes and idiots are not limited to any one culture, so trying to pigeonhole them into one category really is kinda silly. But as you said, our brains do try to proctect us by making snap judgements in most situations. I like the variety in my world. And I enjoy that variety immensly. And that is where I think my resistance comes in. I never want to have to worry about being limited by racism, in any way. It takes away from my pleasure in people. So it’s a fear based thing. Maybe once I let go of the fear that I will see racism, maybe it won’t come into my reality? I can go with that!!! 🙂
You hit on a really important point, one that Tony explored above. We have to make peace with racism. It exists and people who are racist cannot just be eradicated. If we call them unacceptable we are doing to them what we are accusing them of doing to others. The idea is to let go of all judgement. Period. That’s not an easy thing to do. But just because we vehemently disagree with someone’s point of view, doesn’t give us the right to call it wrong.
The underlying belief is that one person can do something to harm another. But they can’t. They can only ever become a cooperative component in someone’s manifestation. But the pain and damage must be invited in. This is NOT to say that the victim deserves what they get or that they are to blame (that they asked for it). It simply means that we can give our power away, as we have usually been taught to do (and have therefore been taught to let others hurt us, without realizing that we had the power to stop them), or we can take our power back. And our power lies within ourselves and our focus. I have seen this with my own eyes, even when it comes to something like racism.
When we push against racism, we perpetuate it. When we flood it with compassion and focus on what we want instead, we release it from our grip and let it go. Accept that it exists. Be ok that it has a right to exist. And be content to focus your way into the reality you want. 🙂
Outstanding post Melody. For the record I am a white male. I believe that we all need to work to eradicate hate. I am appalled by the kind of anger I witness in people on an everyday basis. Racism is just one of the manifestations of the culture of hate that seems to be far too prevalent in our society. I do not condone it, but I want to take it a step further and hopefully help people to not hate period. The problem seems to me to be a tendency to label everything and everybody. Black/White, Gay/Straight, Man/Woman. The one thing that we all have in common is that we are human beings. When we label another individual, we objectify them. It is much easier to hate an object than a person. I became a grandfather for the first time last year, and I want my granddaughter and any future grandchildren to grow up in a world where love rules and hate is non-existent. To quote John Lennon “you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”. Call me naive, but I believe in the power of love. Thank you, and bless you for all you do.
You and John are not the only ones, Larry. I promise you. Your grandkids will be just fine, growing up with a compassionate, loving, tolerant, connected grandpa who knows Who He Really Is. Bravo!!!
I have to make clear that I AM a racist. I do NOT attack people but I don’t prefer to spend time with people who are not of my kind. If I had a daughter I would rather see her married with a man of the same colour as mine, and I would also like him to speak the same language. If I had a son, I would be terribly disappointed if I found out one day that he is gay. When I see gypsies begging with their children almost naked I want to puke and the only muslims I can tolerate are those who can talk wihout mentioning anything about their religion. I don’t like immigrants and I don’t want their religion, too. We have enough problems with our own religion, we don’t need more.
On the other hand I have no problems with black people or Jews, probably because I haven’t met many of them, yet.
What about those who are racists to armchair “racists”? Those who manipulate people to accept forced change, not to be labeled as racists. This insane propaganda is currently going on here and it’s only result is to push people to vote for a neo-nazi party. Mix poverty with local wanna-be christianity and muslim immigrants, add an artificial financial crisis and a bit of danger from another country in the neighborhood, the third reich is coming. If I had to choose between immigrants left party lunatic intelligentia (who have not even served in the army) and the neo-nazis, I would rather commit suicide and find my ancestors in heaven. At least they died to give us a country so we can demolish it with freedom.
What about a certain religion who is about to explode in europe if Greece gives papers to immigrants who are stacking every day from every corner of Asia and Africa?
Imagine the flag of Switzerland for example without the cross. Shall we live in multiple universes? Shall we choose who will be the minority and who will vote for the laws?
I am not talking about bad tempered idiotic individuals who find amusing to insult or threaten people with other colour on their skin (or because they are different in any way) in order to boost their own ego.
I am talking about mixing populations with entirely different cultures and laws.
You make some excellent points. First of all, I applaud your courage to be so honest in your comment. Thank you for that. Second, I agree with you – we cannot force those with fear and resistance to just give it up. We must respect where everyone is at. Of course it doesn’t feel good to be told by some liberal that you’re a horrible person for feeling the way you do and that you’re going to be forced to live differently. When we try to do that, it backfires badly. Take a population of people who feel powerless and try to take more of that power away, even if it’s in the name of tolerance, and it will simply breed a backlash. That’s what the Neo Nazi movement is all about.
The answer is not in forcing people to be tolerant. You can force people to act as if they’re tolerant (that’s what political correctness is all about), but it tends to make things worse, not better.
The answer lies in not poking the bear, but working with people, respecting that they have a right to feel the way they do, that they have reasons for feeling that way (and that these reasons are valid, for them) and then gently introducing evidence to the contrary. Over time, they will lose their fear. Just like a child who is at first apprehensive when seeing a black person for the first time will, after just a little while, decide there’s no danger and that there’s nothing at all strange about this person, so can anyone lose their fear. But it takes time and exposure and no one gets to dictate how long that takes for any one person. You can’t force someone not to be uncomfortable or afraid of something.
I’m certain that if your son was gay, you might be disappointed at first, but your love for him would allow you to accept him eventually. You would acclimate. You would lose your discomfort. We all have that ability. 🙂
Prejudice is a huge topic! Thank you for starting the discussion and for providing a clear dissection of where it comes from and how to get rid of it.
The roots go back to hunter-gatherer days, when a person from another tribe was likely to kill you. Avoidance was the best strategy, and paying close attention to visual clues was a survival mechanism. Noticing physical differences is hard-wired, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to lead to negative thoughts.
As you suggest, the best tool is familiarity, even for dogs! If we expose puppies to different skin colors, they won’t react negatively later. A pup who has only ever seen white people will often growl and snap the first few times they see someone with dark skin. The unfamiliar is instinctively potentially dangerous, even to a well-fed, loved, happy puppy.
I think the best thing we can do to end prejudice is to encourage our children to see and interact with people of all races, appearances, sexuality, etc. As you point out, the media go a long way in helping socialize children. I just hope they get over the Middle Eastern bad guy syndrome soon!
Thanks again for bringing up an important topic, Melody. I look forward to reading everyone’s comments.
About the puppy – some friends of mine own a dog that at first didn’t have too much exposure to black people (even though my friend is half black), and she would always cause them great embarrassment when they were taking her on walks and she started barking at black people! I think she’s better now though. Lovely dog 🙂
I mean, lovely dog despite the racism, not because of it of course! 😀
It’s really important to let dogs meet all kinds of people, cats, etc, when they’re young. You can accustom them later, but it takes more work. It seems to me that the same would be true for children, though I don’t have any personal evidence. Interesting thought… Carole
Yep, true of children, too. When my son started daycare (he was just under a year old at the time) the morning teacher at the daycare was from Somalia. She’s probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and so great with little kids, but he’d never met anyone with skin that dark before and he was really afraid of her for the first week or so. But then he got to know her, and the other kids (it was a big daycare centre, and very multicultural) and it wasn’t an issue any more… I’d drop him off and every morning he’d tear over to her to give her a big hug and present her with his latest treasure he’d found for her on the way in (little rocks, sticks, leaves… she thought it was hilarious). 🙂
Just *over* a year old, I meant…
That’s a great story, Nathalie! Okay, I’m heading to your blog for the avocado smoothie recipe. You can pick avocados off the trees on the street here, along with tons of types of fruit. The state founders didn’t want anyone to go hungry, so they planted fruit trees on all the public roads. I love Mexico! Come visit, and we’ll make lots of smoothies. Hugs, Carole
Thanks for sharing your story Nathalie! Although kids and dogs may have a natural suspicion of anything and anyone different from what they’re used to, they overcome it quite easily. They are very willing to take on a different point of view. We adults? not so much… 😉
But kids learn from their parents. If parents are open and mix easily with all kinds of different people, and easily accept a new kind of different person into their midst, the kids will learn the same. If parents are afraid, kids will pick up on that, too.
I have a good friend who’s a big, black, American guy with very darkly pigmented skin. He teaches English to children in Spain, many of whom have never seen a black man, other than the Nigerian immigrants who come here illegally, are very poor, end up selling trinkets on the street as a form of indentured servitude, and if encountered on the street, will lead to their parents whisking them as afar away as possible. this is often the only impression of a black person they’ve ever had. He’s described how fascinated the kids are, nervous at first, but then curious, wanting to touch his dark skin to see what it feels like (is it different? Why don’t his arms have hair?) and long dreadlocks, and then deciding, magnanimously, that his differences are not only ok, but freaking awesome. They end up climbing on him like a jungle gym (He’s about 4 times as big as any Spanish person they’re ever likely to encounter). They always end up loving the crap out of him. And I’m certain, that their impression of black people will be forever altered for the rest of their lives. They’re now much more likely to look at those Nigerian immigrants with compassion rather than fear. And through their acceptance, their parents way well become less afraid as well. All because one big chocolate bear decided to be their teacher and show them that big and black doesn’t mean scary. That ONE positive impression has the power to negate generations worth of fear. How beautiful is that? 🙂
Thanks so much Carole! We can learn a lot from dogs… Even if they are afraid at first, they are willing to overcome the prejudice in a relatively short amount of time. As soon as they’re convinced there’s no danger, it’s all good. 🙂
That was a beautiful article:) I served in several overseas military assignments in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I used many of the methods you described to overcome suspicion of others. I connected with people as individuals and made some good friends along the way. I grew up believing bad things about white people but surprise, surprise my wife of 25 years is white.
That’s awesome Kevin! I truly believe that allowing people to come to a different conclusion by exposing them to different experiences is the most effective way. I find that a lot of African Americans experience huge shifts when they come to Europe, where the energy around race is quite different. It’s not that racism or prejudice don’t exist, but the energy of it is feels very different than in the US, and black people, in general, don’t face the brunt of it here. And once you shift your paradigm a little, it’s not long before whole beliefs start crumbling. 🙂
What a coincidence! Last night I saw this movie -Crash, which is based on people’s prejudices right after 9/11 happened. And most of them were false beliefs.
I truly believe in what you say – I have met both awesome people and douchebags from all races including mine. Its the individual not their color. But ofcourse there is conditioning.
I also think that blaming something on another person because of their race is also kind of a coping mechanism. When someone cannot find anything else wrong with the other person, it is easy to blame it on something generic and feel that we are justified in our belief. I know such people who use these terms when they dont have other cards to
play. Seen a lot of this sh%t in the corporate environment too 🙁
Nevertheless its always our own fear whether it is our “creepy” neighbor who is from the same race or someone else from the other culture. There are so many movies based on this – when people from different backgrounds (race/culture/economic) with strong beliefs are put together in dire situations, they almost always find out that people are so much more than what is seen at the outside. Hopefully we all remember this all the time.
Lots of love
Thanks so much for adding your input here, Vini!
This was a very interesting subject and I’m glad you chose to write about it.
My experience: I am mixed race, and grew up in Africa. I went to an international school so I was always in a very multicultural environment, a bubble of ex-pats and kids from mixed backgrounds, basically third-culture kids.
Race has never really been an issue for me, and I’ve never really felt self-conscious when I’m in a group of just white people (in fact I kind of enjoy being the exotic, different one, hehe). When I moved to Sweden for two years, I had friends who were also from the exact same cultural mix as I, but they grew up in Sweden instead of Zambia. I noticed that they were hyper-sensitive to racism. I remember an incident where I was with my friend and a guy was rude to us – I just assumed he was a douche, but she immediately told me he was being racist. I think if I had stayed longer in Sweden I might have eventually become like that, but thank goodness I got fed up of it moved to London, probably the most multicultural cities in the world!
Come to think of it, I’ve never really manifested any racism towards myself. Ok once, when I was about 12 and was with my friends in Sweden and a drunk guy pointed to me and said “people like her shouldn’t be allowed to live here” (I didn’t live there at the time). It shook me up a bit, but that’s about it. So, because I grew up in an environment where race wasn’t really an issue, I don’t really attract racism.
I do have one pet peeve though, and that is when people identify me as “black”. I don’t say anything, because I know there’s a whole ugly history of mixed people being ashamed of their black side and trying to “pass for white”, but that’s not it. It’s that being mixed is part of who I am, I’m neither here nor there, I don’t fit in black and I don’t fit in white, even though I am both. So I strongly identify with being mixed, and being called black… well… Especially when it’s by a white person , because it feels kind of like “let’s lump all the darkies into one group”. Not at all referring to anything in your post Melody btw. I know you cool 🙂 But I guess there’s a trigger for me somewhere there… don’t think it has to do so much with racism though as it has to do with wanting to be a unique snowflake.
Anyway, I digressed a bit. Good post!
Have you read anything by Natasha Trethewey? She’s the Poet Laureate of the United States, and writes about growing up mixed race in Mississippi. She celebrates her heritage, just like you do. I think you’d like her.
Thanks Carole, I will definitely check her out 🙂
Here’s a link to one of my favorite of Natasha’s poems. She was my first mentor as a poet, and I knew her back when she wrote this poem. Hug!
I’m also mixed race (my mum is English, with some Scottish heritage and my dad is Cameroonian). I was born in Southern Africa (Swaziland) and also lived in Lesotho in Southern Africa and Fiji. I don’t remember living in Africa because I was too young and only remember a bit of Fiji. In Fiji there are quite a lot of different races, so I wonder what my experience growing up there would have been. I’ve lived in England since I was four and have spent the majority of my life with my mum’s family, in a predominately white society but have never really seen it as a problem, or felt “different”. Although I’m aware of having a different skin colour, I don’t think of myself as massively different.
Mixed race people being identified as “black” is also a pet peeve of mine. I think people will identify me differently, some as mixed, some as black or “coloured” (the British definition, not the South African one) or some don’t know. I’ve often been asked where I’m from, which basically translates as “What is your race?” Some people have though I’m an Arab because I do belly dancing. I totally agree with this, “It’s that being mixed is part of who I am”. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my black side, if I was, I’d just make up some race for the other half! lol. I just believe in acknowledging all of yourself, just like if someone is English and Italian or French and Swedish or whatever, because then you’re talking about the whole person. It all makes up who you are, along with everything else- personality, beliefs, ambitions etc.
I do find it disappointing when a lot of celebrities with mixed heritage identify as “black” but then I try to think how they’ve had a different upbringing and experience to me, so that’s probably why, because we’re not the same. E.g. Barack Obama would have had a totally different experience to me being an older, American man. He was raised in a different country in a different time. I would like people to know they have a choice as to how they identify, whatever feels right for them. 🙂 I just wish race wasn’t so important in general but hopefully in time we can all move past it and look past skin colour and heritage, I mean still acknowledge it as a part of someone but not have it as the be all and end of all of everything.
Carole- I haven’t heard of Natasha Trethewey but will check her out. 🙂
On a completely different note, I’d like to say thank you, Melody for doing this blog. 🙂 I’ve been reading it for a while now and it’s helped me to feel better and work through some issues. It goes deeper than The Secret and explains things better.
Thanks Karin and Moonsparkle and Carole. 🙂
Regarding people calling you black, I think people are just 1.) trying to figure out how to relate to you (it’s why we ask each other where we’re from, what we do, etc. – to try and find some common ground, and 2.) displaying a desire to not offend you in a society that has deemed any way of talking about race as racist, while making it a primary focus. Sort of a lose, lose situation. We’re going to focus on it incessantly, but if you talk about it, you’re racist…
Identity is such a hard thing, though. I often struggle to describe my own. I’m German and American, but don’t really feel like either. I live in Spain, but am not Spanish. I identify with some American traits and some German traits, and some European traits and probably some Martian traits, for all I know. It’s very hard to identify how I feel using the predetermined categories of race or religion or nationality or culture. And I think that’s true for everyone. Perhaps what bothers you most is the idea that someone could know anything at all about you by looking at one aspect of you – that one of your relatives was black. Well, I think we should all rebel against that idea. 🙂
Thanks for your reply. Yes, probably it is because we’re all trying to relate to other people. I think that because race is such a part of society, when we can’t immediately categorise someone, we’re confused. I find myself wondering what people are sometimes. Also, it is difficult to know what to say because people have different definitions of themselves and they might be offended if you identify them as one thing and not another. I remember watching a TV programme years ago (might have been one of The Real World ones, where someone asked this girl if she was mixed race and she was really upset and offended. I think people had commented before on how she was a different colour to her family (like maybe lighter skinned than them), so they thought she didn’t belong to them. I can’t remember exactly because it was a long time ago but it was something like that.
I understand about having difficulty describing your identity. I identify as British (or English) by nationality because I’ve lived here the longest, half my family are here and I always had British citizenship because of my mum. But then I’ll always be African too. I didn’t know much about my African family at all but I’m now in touch with one of my relatives and he’s told me more, which is nice.
Maybe it is that people assume they could know stuff about me just because of one aspect of me. I’ve never agreed with the idea that black people should just like R’n’B music or white people should like pop or country or whatever, lol. And sometimes we make assumptions based on race. I think you should just like whatever you like and just because you’re a certain race/s doesn’t mean you’re required to like or dislike something. I don’t even agree with the type of thinking that if you like one thing you can’t like another, e.g. someone once thought it was weird that I like both pop music and weird horror films and that people don’t normally like such different things but I know that they do, lol. I agree that we should rebel against the idea of knowing something about someone based on one thing.
That’s a great poem 🙂