Recently I came across a Humans of New York post about an elderly black man who talked about how far the issue of racism has come and how proud he is at the change. I tended to think that the older generation were the ones who still saw racism in places where the younger generation might look for another reason. Which has brought me back to the question which generation see racism most prominently? Is it the older generation who saw serious segregation, our parents generation who rose up and started to see true change or is it our generation who doesn’t look at how far we’ve come because we know that we still aren’t there?
Today we have the issue of hidden racism. While no longer legal racism is still in practice every day. It is hidden by saying that it isn’t about race when targeting those below the poverty line, but how can it not be about race when it was the housing laws of the 60’s who put most of them there. People cover it up with things to make themselves feel better so is racism only there if we look for it, or have we been brain washed to give people the benefit of the doubt? In the Cheerio’s commercial that features a bi racial family the black father is sleeping on the couch. Is this a harmless commercial promoting diverse families or is it subliminal racism promoting the stereotype of the lazy black man? Is everything that doesn’t portray minorities in a positive light racist?
5 thoughts on “If we look for it.”
You posed a lot of good questions. The one that most interest me was the questions about this generations relationship to racism and recognizing it versus the older generation and their relationship with racism and how they recognize it. I feel like all those oppressed by racism see it. I feel that the older generation has seen racism in a different way and they saw the beginning of some of the different forms of racism that we are seeing now, but because of their experiences when what was common for them to see started to be shifted into another kind of racism, they felt that they had won. for instance, those who were old enough to know what it felt like to have someone you know or know of get attacked with hoses, dogs, mobs, etc probably feel like some of racism is gone because those acts of racism don’t happen. and our generation looks at things such as mass incarceration and realize that that’s the kind of racism we deal wit and when that stops being the case, WHICH I hop it will sooner than later, we will say that some of the forms of racism are over. But i think as long as everyone in the highest positions of power have the same kind of mindset that they have and aren’t truly willing to change, then there will always be another form of racism that will take over which ever form of racism came before it and we’ll all get tricked back into the same cycle in one way or another.
I actually saw the same Humans of New York photo that you mentioned above. What was really interesting to me was that in the comment with the picture the man explained that he’d been sitting on the same block for fifty years. He watched the area transform from an all Black neighborhood that a White person couldn’t step foot in, to a neighborhood full of people of all different races. His experiences have shaped his view of racism. In his town, on his street, on his bench, he has physically seen a transformation that leads him to believe racism is going away. I wonder if he spent more time away from his bench all around the city, he would still think racism has improved as much as he says it has.
In regards to the Cheerios commercial, I thought the overall theme and use of a biracial family was positive. My first reaction when seeing it was positive and the idea that it might be promoting a negative stereotype about Black men (laziness) never crossed my mind. I think context matters a lot, especially in this short, 30-second look into a fictional family’s life. The father was napping while the mother was sitting at the table, but it was unclear what the mother was doing (there are envelopes on the table, some sort of stamp, and she is writing with a pen). It is possible that the father was taking a nap after a long day at work, but we do not know this either. I think, in vague scenarios like this one, the assumptions that viewers make are where stereotypes crop up. If the commercial had chosen to portray the father as unemployed, or something to that effect, it would be explicitly reinforcing negative stereotypes about Black people. I think it’s very difficult to create a story line that is 100% perfect and not problematic because everyone will read between the lines and infer different ideas from the same video (or whatever medium it’s in). So in some ways, I think it’s always possible to find some semblance of racism if we look hard enough for it. But is that the most productive way to talk about racism? I don’t think, by any means, we should stop pointing out or talking about less obvious kinds of racism. Perhaps it would be helpful to criticize/explain/learn about/talk about the “bigger” or more explicit or less progressive ideas? I’m not sure, anyone else have thoughts on this?
p.s. here is the commercial:
Perhaps generations are aware of different types of racism. Older generations have been exposed to much more overt racism, discrimination, and segregation than individuals in our generation. However, I don’t know how aware either generation is of hidden racism. I think it’s important that all generations become aware of the ways in which racism has evolved and exists in the modern world.
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