Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Being honest with one's own racism

Everyone's a little bit racist
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

- Avenue Q

Two days ago, as I was driving through downtown L.A. with my friend, I locked my doors randomly when we were going through Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. My friend looks at me and asked, "Eddy, did you just lock your doors when you saw those two thug-looking black people walk across the street?"

"...Fuck me. You're right, I DID lock my doors right after I saw them."

"Eddy, you're so RACIST."

"Damn. This is something I need to think about."

And so for the past two days, I have been thinking about the issue of racism, one of the few topics in the world that can reduce the most rational and sensible people into furious and blubbering savages. In this day and age, it has become uncool to be racist and whenever anyone implies that another person is racist or has racist intentions, the other person will react in such violent force and defend how non-racist they are.

I'm gonna keep it real and say it out straight. Like the Avenue Q song, I firmly believe that EVERYBODY is a little bit racist and those who say they are not...well, they are heavily misguided.

Racism, to most people, seem to equal this:

In most people's minds, to be racist means to be proactively hating against a specific group(s) of people based on their ethnicity and skin color, but rarely would they equate racism to subtle social interactions that places certain people on hierarchy of thought. Racism exists not only on a systematic and institutional level, but also on a personal level where one has inherent beliefs that a certain race portrays undesirable characteristics. We have seen celebrities slipping up and showing their racist undertones that the media will immediately jump on them and accuse them of being ignorant or racist...which is hypocritical, as if they are saying that this is a trait we ALL don't have. Shaquille O'Neal, Miley Cyrus, Don Imus, and Chris Matthews are some of the more recent examples of folks who have said or done something racist but they are just like all of us since we all have done something like that. It is something that we can't accuse others of doing without realizing that we do it ourselves.

So let's get back to where I locked my car doors when I saw two thug-looking black people walk across the street.

Clearly, they posed no threat to me and were just walking along their way. Did I lock my doors because they were black? Did I lock my doors based on how they dressed? Or did I lock my doors based on my preconceived knowledge of what that particular street avenue in downtown L.A. was like? Or did I lock my doors because of all of these factors combined?

I do know that I have had similar reactions when bypassing/confronting thug-looking Korean folks and unsavory Mexican teenagers calling me "Chino vendejo" across the street. So I won't dismiss myself and say that the color of black intimidates me but rather the element of class also plays a significant role in my perception of people. I would have more of a negative reaction to people dressing thug and gangster than to those who are wearing "casual" clothing.

I'm slowly getting into the familiar territory where people make excuses of admitting a level of racism that they have. So let me be real about myself: I have racist notions towards whites, Koreans, blacks, and Latinos.

With white people, my first impression for any white person I will meet is that they will be soaked in white privilege, have no idea how to talk about race without saying how much they like Korean BBQ, they had a Filipino girlfriend or that they have black friends, and humorously look down on the Asian man with condescending undertones. When I see a white guy with any minority girl (especially Asian girls), I cannot help but get a negative reaction that forms in my gut. Especially if the white guy is butt ugly or fat as a lard bucket.

With blacks and Latinos, the issue that I seem to still have within myself are those that talk and dress "ghetto". I notice that I'm more on guard with blacks and Latinos who act thuggish than those who are upper-class and dress "more white". I think I'm more on guard with folks who possess this certain characteristic because they will see me as some inferior Chink that can easily be pushed over.

With Koreans, compared to all the other races that I harbor some racist notions towards to, my guard is at its highest whenever I meet a Korean person. Unless I know for sure that they are APA activists or people who are not culturally Korean and similar like me, I am worried that my lack of awareness for all things Korean will  will make me look like an ignorant bastard. I also regard Koreans as the angriest Asian group out of all the Asians, one of the most exclusive group of people that only wants to keep to themselves.

For all these groups, my first impressions fail to go beyond the skin color and I automatically make assumptions about who they are as people and how they will act towards me. I work hard to not let my first impressions become my ONLY impressions but I cannot lie and say that I regard everybody at first glance with a saint-like perspective. I must also be aware of some interesting viewpoints that I have towards black, Indian, and Hispanic women, and notice that I seem to prefer them over women of other ethnicities. Is this some kind of fetish that I have where I am only attracted by their skin color and with that, I am attracted to my assumptions of what that skin color carries for that woman? I'm not sure.

All I can say that is if I am to pursue my life as an activist, I need to constantly monitor myself and be aware of my own racism, my own shortcomings and viewpoints that I have towards other people and always, always remind myself that my goal is to see people beyond their skin color yet acknowledge their skin color at the same time.

So I'll go ahead and say yes, I'm a little bit racist. Dirty cat's out of the bag.

What about you? Share me your honest thoughts and maybe we can make this racism topic a little less scary than it is and actually talk about it in a constructive manner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

have u read obama's dreams from my father? im reading it now and he tackles a lot of these issues, talks about his own struggles with racism. i think youd really enjoy it.

-lara :)