Monday, September 24, 2007

Racism

Today is the 50th anniversary of the "Arkansas 9" which effectively led to school desegregation in the south, yet racism is still widespread in America. The case of the "Jena 6" is only the latest example.

When the word "racism" is used, most immediately think of relations between white Americans and African-Americans, but it applies much more broadly than that. Look at the whole immigration debate. Or the mainstream view of the Middle East. There is a frequent tendency to demonize the "other".

Here in my region, the group most likely to be derided with negative racist stereotypes are Native Americans, followed by Hispanics. Simply put, they are the most visible minority in the area. The local bigots probably hate black folks, too, but there just aren't as many of them around here.

I've always had a hard time understanding prejudice. I grew up in San Francisco, in a working class neighborhood. It was about as multi-ethnic as you could possibly find. Because I grew up playing with kids with a variety of skin color, I thought it wasn't important. Until I was old enough to see that the rest of the country wasn't like my neighborhood. During the civil rights movement it was hard for me to understand why people had to fight for equality. I though all people should have equal rights, for the simple reason that we're all people.

It seems simple enough, but there is a common mind-set that sees the world in a framework of "us vs. them". Perhaps it is a vestige of tribalism, but we now live in a global world where tribal definitions no longer apply.

Which brings me back to the current American attitude towards the Middle East. Many Americans were willing to embrace the war on Iraq after 9/11 because they saw all Arabs as "them". Today they are reacting to Amadinejad with the same racial hatred (OK, he's an easy target) , but I wonder how much the public understands of the history of American-Iranian relations.
May I make a simple suggestion? When you think a group of people is the "other", stop and eat, drink, and yes, have sex with them. You'll realize that they are just people. They may have different habits, but they still have the same feelings and hopes that you do.

7 comments:

whig said...

But I'm married. My wife would be annoyed if I have sex with them. :)

You're right on, though.

pygalgia said...

Hey, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. If you only eat and drink with "them" (whoever they are) you will find your fellow human.

Mauigirl said...

Very true, Pygalgia. Familiarity, unlike the old saying, does not breed contempt, but understanding.

whig said...

Fear breeds contempt, and all manner of hatred.

Distributorcap said...

the bush administration has so nefariously demonized all mid-easterners (arabs, persians) --- and have been so successful at it.....

state led racism, sounds familiar huh?

fairlane said...

When I was still working as a counselor, I did my best to bring peace between Americans and Persians, but she said she wouldn't sleep with anyone unless they were rich, even if she was in love with them.

Damn, she was hot.

Suzy said...

This "otherness" is exactly why I cannot identify myself as a patriot. It breeds an us & them mentality.

On a different note, good one, Fairlane.