We have all heard so many stories about the death of Trayvon Martin over the past several weeks. There seems to be a lot of discussion about racism surrounding his death. This leads me to believe it is time to begin discussing the definition of racism and how each of us can take a stand to stop it. Let us begin with a few basic definitions.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the definition of racial profiling is the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. The key word in this definition is “discriminatory”. When law enforcement officials are specifically targeting a group or individual based on the color of their skin it means there is an automatic assumption of guilt because of the race of the suspect(s).
The Law Library defines discrimination as “unequal treatment of persons, for a reason which has nothing to do with legal rights or ability. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in employment, availability of housing, rates of pay, right to promotion, educational opportunity, civil rights, and use of facilities based on race, nationality, creed, color, age, sex or sexual orientation. The rights to protest discrimination or enforce one's rights to equal treatment are provided in various federal and state laws, which allow for private lawsuits with the right to damages. There are also federal and state commissions to investigate and enforce equal rights.” This tells us that people being treated unequally based solely on their race (along with the other protected classes) is discrimination. The primary focus here is “unequal treatment”.
According to the Macmillan Dictionary, unequal is defined as “not giving the same treatment or opportunities to everyone, and therefore unfair”. So we can see that unequal treatment is unfair.
So we will begin our discussion about racism with the definitions above recognizing that racial discrimination is unequal treatment of individuals that is not fair. So now that we know what it is, let’s look at some examples of racial discrimination.
Let’s begin with the tough questions. If you are walking down a dark alley and you see a black man wearing dark clothes (I am leaving out hoodies intentionally here) would you be afraid? This would depend on several things, I would assume. This list would include the amount of light in the alley (I have already determined it is dark), the distance between you and this individual, the level of comfort you have in the area and other issues. So let’s assume now that you are in the same situation and you see a man in a suit. Skin color is not a part of the picture, just the suit. Is your perception different?
Now let’s say you are in a shopping mall and you notice that you keep seeing the same person in several stores and you see this person looking at you quite often. Would you feel uncomfortable? Now let’s assume this person is an Asian male with tattoos and piercings. Does this change your perception? What if it was a pretty red headed woman that appears to be following you from store to store? Does affect how you see the situation?
It is now time to go to the grocery store. You make your purchases and return to the parking lot to load your groceries in your car. Someone approaches you and offers to help you load your groceries in your car. Are you uncomfortable? Will you accept their offer of assistance? What if this person is a blonde haired, blue eyed teen boy? Now imagine this person is a Latino male wearing a bandana on his head and with a pockmarked face. Does this change your answer?
The simple fact of the matter is that any of these people could be ordinary people with no hidden agenda or they could be criminals looking for their next target. How did your answers change based on basic descriptions and how does that make you feel about the situation? Are you justified in your reactions? Why? Your answers will be based on your own sex, age, experiences in life and perceptions of the World. These are the questions we all need to ask each other in order to have a better understanding of who we are and how we make decisions and see the World.
We have all heard white people called “crackers”, Hispanics called “spicks” and Asians called “Chinks”. There is a long list that I won’t bother to repeat, but the point is that there are a lot of slang words that represent racial heritage. The use of a racial slur may be accepted by a specific ethnical group from the inside, but it may be perceived as offensive from the outside. Why?
In order to begin to lower racism, we must begin by understanding that using racial slurs is a form of racism. Check out this webpage for 2000 racial slurs and see if you have used or heard any of them. You might be surprised. http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthrea
LAWS CANNOT BE DISCRIMINATORY
The immigration law in Arizona instructs law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they feel may not be in the country legally. With a highly Latino population, this means that U.S. citizens may be forced to prove their legal status based solely on assumptions about the color of their skin. This law has been scrutinized for many reasons, but it also has a high level of support among Arizona residents and citizens around the U.S. The law specifically states that individuals cannot be discriminated against based solely on their race, but race may be one of the factors considered to determine if the law should be applied to an individual. Do you see this as discriminatory?
Racism is harmful if swallowed- Sometimes resulting in death.
In order to understand racism, we must first understand the definitions. Once we understand the definitions, we must then take a hard look at ourselves and see what is there, deep down. The purpose of this article is not to incite anger, but hopefully raise awareness. If we can each take a good hard look at ourselves and understand where we stand- we can then begin working on those around us. My strongest recommendation would be for each of us to take ownership over our own thoughts and feelings. Once we do that, we will begin to see the World in a different light. My greatest hope is that once we are able to understand, we can begin to undo the damage and prevent further pain caused by racism in society.