As I have watched the news and blogs lately I am shocked and saddened over the direction it would appear the United States continues to head. I think at this point we can all agree that this country is far from enlightened when it comes to issues of race and interracial interaction. I think it is also safe to say that we all are painfully aware that there is a lot of work to be done however; does it appear to anyone else that instead of progressing forward we are seeing a delve backward?
In the film The Blind Side while the “white” women were eating “$18 salads” at a restaurant, Sandra Bullock’s character asks if any of the other ladies had ever been to the “other side” of town after some teasing remarks, the one woman stated; “I’m from there, but with a little hard work and now look at me”. For me this resonated with the frameworks we discussed in class on Wednesday and how if “they” just worked harder they too could live the “good life”. It also brought to mind Trayvon Martin and the way that people have stated that “if he had dressed differently” he would not have appeared to be “suspicious or threatening” again; change and conform to white society and everything will be just fine.
If there was ever a time in which a headline encompassed the entire meaning of contemporary racism, this past weekend was it. In Texas, two teams played a basketball game; Alamo Heights and their rival, Edison High School. After Alamo won and was presented with a trophy some student spectators began to chant, “USA! USA! USA!”. Why you ask? Alamo Heights High School is predominantly white and Edison High School is predominantly Hispanic.
Hogg (2006) states that “Social Identity theory is motivated by two processes, self enhancement and uncertainty reduction”, this has been mulling over and over in my mind all week. I am stuck on its contradiction; instead of being a freeing process that enhances and reduces uncertainty instead brings about and perpetuates all of the magnificent “isms”. We as human beings categorize everything and everyone without even thinking; especially ourselves, we cannot help it; it’s how we are designed. This idea started me thinking about alcoholism. I know this is an odd jump but bear with me for a minute.
I had a professor once who asked the class to close their eyes and envision the “perfect mate”. He then went around the room asking each student to describe their “dream” mate and marked it on the board. After every one was finished describing their vision he proceeded to explain to the class that every time he does this exercise, the “ideal” ends up being Caucasian, taller, blue eyes and light hair. While there were some votes for dark hair and eyes, his statement held true and the Caucasian, taller, blue eyes and light hair ideal won out; even with the black students. The professor then went about explaining American WASP culture and how deep its roots really delve. Tatum, 2007/1997, hit on this when on page 124, a student, once discovering that Cleopatra was black, exclaimed; “But Cleopatra was beautiful!”. Why is it that within our society we have been programmed to believe that being black, or “of color” (“of color” always makes me laugh; are all white people really “white” and void of color somehow pristine and pure?), is so unworthy of the word beauty?
There is a four letter word that is as distasteful as its other four letter counter parts and it distorts realities, paralyzes its victims and creates doubt; FEAR. Tatum, addresses the various degrees of fear in the article “Whiteness: the Power of Resistance” (2008) and I beleive the article hits the proverbial nail squarely on the head. Somehow in some way we were taught that different is “bad” and not “normal” and typically, we fear that which we do not know. We claim to “celebrate” our differences in this country but only if those differences don’t permeate the society that we have established. America, it appears, does not respond well to change an irony that confounds me. That being said, it does not mean that we should give up and stop trying to improve. I am sure you are familiar with the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” as often times it’s the small squeaky rumblings of society that capture the attention of society; Occupy Wall Street anyone? For me, this means that the “trickle down” theory may not work when dealing with racism but the trickle UP theory may; meaning, change starts with the individual who carries it forward.