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Friday, September 28, 2007

How can we stop racism?

Short answer: By not acting on our prejudices.

Long answer: We can't, because "racism" is comprised of two separate concepts and one of them can't be stopped, while the other one takes more self-control than most people are capable of conjuring. The two sides of racism (in my opinion, and in definition) are "having prejudices based on race" and "acting on those prejudices." The biggest problem with stopping racism is stopping the first half of it from happening, which we cannot do.

We all have prejudices. The word "prejudice" comes from "pre-judging" - which is supposed to deal with judging someone before it's proper, I think. There is no appropriate time to judge someone where you can jump the gun, except of course in a court of law with an actual judge and jury. You judge people when you want to, in whatever fashion, for whatever reasons - and we'll never be able to change the way the human mind works. I have read in several places that a woman has judged a man and knows if she will or won't have sex with him within the first [times range from two minutes to twenty-four hours] of meeting him. If that isn't clear evidence that we "pre-judge" and will never be able to stop it, I don't know what is.

What CAN be stopped is acting on these prejudices. The obvious acts we'd like to stop are violent crimes because of race. Which, I've found, are just normal violent crimes that are either exacerbated because of the prejudice of the enacter or exaggerated by observers transferring their own prejudice onto how they see the violent crime. In each incidence, you really have to ask, "Do we see this as racism because the black guy hit the white guy, or because of how we feel about either the black guy or the white guy?" I have to admit that I overhear a lot more chatter from black men about "the white man trying to keep the black man down" than I hear evidence of any white man actually trying to keep a black man down.

The only theoretical way I can see to "stop" racism is by having people set better examples. Every stereotype out there that causes us to pre-judge is based on elements of truth, hearsay and personal experiences. If some woman gets her purse stolen by a black person, she's likely to think less of them, be more afraid of them, and act accordingly. If a man watches a group of white men tip a waiter of their race poorly, he's likely to see white men in a more-negative light. The real problem is that nobody (especially the media) bothers to bring good examples to our attention. You never read in the paper about all the Asian drivers who drive exceptionally well - but you read one article about a stereotype that seems to prove true, and it just strengthens that prejudice in your mind.

So the only way to stop racism is to have everyone get along and play nicely with each other, so nobody will have a basis to form negative stereotypes or have reasons to act on any of them because they wouldn't have any. Of course, if everyone's getting alone and playing nicely with each other, we've already stopped racism. So I guess it's pretty much a Catch-22. Which if why I like my short answer better: not acting on our prejudices. And you know the best way to do that?

- Stop taking everything so personally.

- Learn to laugh at our differences. (We're all different - and if we can't laugh at our differences, we wind up doing less-positive things because of our differences and that's where the hating starts.)

- Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions. (You have the right to dislike and pre-judge and have bias. Everyone else has just as much right to do the same.)

- Obey the law. (That's why we have them - to objectively define what can and cannot be done, regardless of opinions. You can dislike someone based on race as much as you want, but you can't do anything ILLEGAL about it. Just be careful, because even if you have freedom of speech, if the things you say trigger the illegal assault and battery, you're going to be at fault.)

- Be yourself. (You can't be expected to be who you're not. Your opinions, your ideas - they're a part of you and you can't deny them. You can do whatever you want to try and change who you are and what your opinions and ideas are, but never be ashamed of who you are. Be free to be you.)


(Sorry, just being myself!)

(The RedEye columnist who posed the question of "How can we stop racism?")


Pinky said...

That was a very good text. Very logical in thinking. Thank you very much.

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