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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Paradox of Modern Racism

Ask just about anyone: "Are you racist?
The answer will be no.
No one judges others based on skin color. No one sees other peoples race. Everyone is colorblind.

Most people believe that they harbor no prejudice. White folks in particular are apt to assert that there is no advantage to their skin color--that if everyone works hard, and is kind to one another, we will 'all get along' and be prosperous.

So then why do we experience so much racial tension in our world? Why are interactions between races still awkward? Why are political options still often split along racial lines? Why are conversations about race so difficult?

Maybe it's because some people insist on continuing to make a big deal out of nothing. Or they want to dwell on the past. Maybe they're playing a card to gain advantage. Or maybe there is something else going on.

We often function with a 'racism without racists' mentality. Our modern racial paradox is that our society is filled with profound differences based on race, yet few claim to even see race at all.

This is a dangerous form of racism. Because we refuse to acknowledge its existence, we are helpless to combat it. Racism is allowed to run rampant because we deny the reality of its strength.  It's a clever tactic: "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist" (Charles Baudelaire). And so, we live in sin, blind to our need for redemption.

Despite our denial , our society is a racialized one. People of color have higher unemployment rates, which disproportionately worsens during economic decline. Workers of color are paid less for the same job, and have poorer access to higher-paying occupations. There are consistent differences across almost all measures, including poverty rates, healthcare, education, and housing.

If we live in a 'post-racial' society, then why does such tremendous disparity exist?

Ironically, the folks that claim to be 'colorblind' are often the same ones that cite 'cultural pathology' to explain the above racial differences:
  • "Some people just don't want to work very hard"
  • "They don't take personal responsibility"
  • "They just don't value family enough"
  • "They are destroying themselves with violence"
  • "Well, it's the drugs, you know"
  • "They don't know how to manage money responsibly"

These 'negative generalizations based on race' sure sound like racism to me. But people making such statements will categorically deny their prejudice. But they are the same ones that wear Dr. King's words about 'the content of our character' like a badge of honor. They 'don't see race.'

But they are also the ones that are quick to point out 'reverse racism.' Alan Noble asserts that "the 'post-racial' myth sees any acknowledgement of difference as hypocrisy, despite the reality of difference" and thus we become selectively colorblind. We tend to only see race as a factor when we feel we are on the loosing side

Rather than denying the reality of racial disparity, if we would turn and face our brokenness, we might begin to take positives steps for change. Only by acknowledging where we are, can we gain direction for where we want to go. 

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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