My wife and I had a great talk the other day about the impact of racism on our children, on us, indeed on all minorities for that matter. The issue was how it impacts our sense of self and our self-esteem, even when we try to be vigilant to keep it from impacting us.
One of the most interesting aspects of our conversation was the point we made that the damage that racism does to us does not just hurt those bearing the brunt of it, but it also damages those who are on the other side, in this case, the majority of Americans, who are White.
We are all damaged by the ridiculous stain of “racial” judgments and classifications, no one is unharmed. We tend to think of the damage to the victims of racism, those on the receiving end. But I don’t think Whites are unharmed. And I am not referring to anti-White racism, which of course does exist.
I mean, even Whites are harmed by the classic superiority mindset that is at the root of the anti-Black or anti-minority racist idea. The mindset, which not all Whites carry, not by a long shot, has however been so out there, for so long, that it has been able to seep into the collective consciousness of all of us, even if we are not racist ourselves. Thus it has created unnecessary suspicion of others who don’t look like us, created a sense that we should be around and date “our own kind,” caused us to sometimes buy into stereotypes, caused us to define ourselves by skin tone, and mainly kept open the notion that we are that different even when we are not. And that is what prevents all of us from being fully who we are.
In those ways, who is undamaged? Whether majority or minority?
Does that mean the damage is undoable, cannot be fixed?
I do believe we can overcome it. But we are fooling ourselves if we don’t realize how deep the stain is and that to cleanse it requires constant vigilance. I am not talking about looking for racism everywhere. I am talking about the internal work that has to be done to be aware of its often subtle impact on only one person, ourselves.
As a minority, that means paying attention to the ways my/our damaged mind can indeed see racism when there is none, due to conditioning. But it also means noticing when I/we hold ourselves back or do not live fully because we have allowed ourselves to feel less than we are.
If one is a member of the majority ethnic group, it may mean noticing if, when and how a sense of entitlement or even subtle superiority can creep up when dealing with someone of a darker skin tone.
I do believe our society has advanced by leaps and bounds in the matter of “race.” And there is so much to celebrate as we see the changes now versus where things were even ten years ago. But I think the biggest advancement will come not because we point out other’s issues in this matter, but rather because we each look at and work on whatever impact the deep stain of racism plays in our own sense of self and the choices we still make.
But be not mistaken there is work to be done on all sides.