While shopping this week, I happened to spot this little number at H&M. I immediately thought, “wow! How cool!!” Considering that H&M is a major corporation which caters to all men and women, I didn’t think that they would ever sell merchandise that could potentially be political or controversial, or at least about a topic that makes people uncomfortable. I imagined people wearing these shirts in public, spreading ideas of love and equality, and beauty among all people. I guess that sounds a little good to be true. I thought about it a little more, even hesitated to try it on. Is this aversive racism? What do you think? I thought that maybe it was promoting colorblindness, however it says “different colors all beautiful” not “different colors all equal“. Because I do agree that people of different colors can be and are all beautiful, but it feels like the shirt is sending a greater message, like equality, probably because of the “say no to racism” part. As we learned, just “saying no to racism” isn’t that simple, since racism is so heavily embedded in our society and structural systems. So is wearing a phrase so simplistic only further hiding the problem? Like, “Cool! If I wear this then everyone will know I’m not a racist!!” This only leads to further denial that you are, in fact, are racist because of society.
In this blog post I want to bring up something that actually discovered earlier today. A friend of mine transferred from Muhlenberg to Smith College, an all girls college in Massachusetts a couple years ago. When speaking with her today, she told me about a Smith alum, Anne Spurzem, who posted a letter about how adding diversity to Smith College is virtually ruining it. Here are two links that discuss (and present) the letter to the editor:
This week in class we were challenged with the task of educating a “typical white male” on how racism is still prevalent today. I was surprised by how difficult this task was, and especially surprised by how blank my mind was when trying to think of what to say. It started making me nervous about my role in society after this class, and how I’m supposed to spread my knowledge to others who embody the same persona that Connie did in class. By the end of class, after many attempts, we were explained the historical root causes of the inequalities that are still present today. Ironically, after years of learning about systematic and institutionalized racism, I thought “well yeah, duh! That makes sense!” However, it became really clear to me that my knowledge was actually quite shallow and I didn’t understand either of those concepts in depth. Although I’m a little more confident now that I’ve learned more, I can’t deny that I’m still insecure about changing the privileged white minds of America.
This week in class we discussed psychological reasonings behind prejudice and racism. Through a couple readings we discovered that humans categorize others through an implicit automatic mechanism. Without even realizing that we are doing so, we are judging a person within seconds of looking at them, placing them into pre-made categories that society helped us create throughout our lives. Stereotypes form these social categories, which then become further reinforced whenever we believe that we witness a person fulfilling a stereotype. On the bright side, this research shows that humans are not deliberately placing others in categories, or more specifically, whites are not deliberately demeaning blacks and other minorities as “less than” them. However, this psychological mechanism implies that human’s brains are hard-wired to act this way, and once there categories are formed, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Coming into this course with previous experience in this topic, I assumed I would be prepared and conditioned to the material, at least in the beginning. However, this week I was really surprised when I found myself sinking into my old white-girl-ways. As we discussed Obama’s speech in class, in which he responded to Reverend Wright’s comment on racism in America, I sat quietly while other’s expressed Obama’s “chickening-out”. Although I completely agreed with this view point, it took me a little while to get there.
This week’s reading, Breaking the Silence (Tatum, 2008), describes the reasoning behind the silence of discussing racism and other issues of discrimination. Whether it is a fear of being isolated from one’s friends and family, or a fear of sounding ignorant and unaware, fear is the root of those unsure, half-smiles when your boss says something racist and expects you to agree. Understandably, people don’t like to create an uncomfortable environment, worrying that they would be ostracized by their co-workers, peers, friends, or family. However it’s difficult for me to believe that expressing your truths and concerns about society can make those who care about you turn their backs on you. I would want my friends and family to discuss these things with me, and I would listen with an open mind and would be confident that they would do the same.