In short, we don't look down to check our fly and as my grandparents use to say, "You're letting the cows out of of the barnyard!"
To that, I am willing to sacrifice this embarrassment so that we can begin to close our fly and start brainstorming solutions.
My grandmother would frequently bring me grocery shopping in a little town in Northern Minnesota. I was old enough to stray from grandmother duckling to mingle among the various products to purchase amongst the rows of aisles. But never too far. On one occasion, there happened to be a person who happened to have a skin color different than my own and my skin color a different one from theirs. My grandmother responded rather intensely when she spotted this individual. She tensed up, tightened her grip on her purse, and demanded that I get close by her. She said she didn't trust that person and that I was not to go near him. I was not to stray from her side for the rest of the shopping trip.
Grandma was the person I had to trust. I was still young and influenced by her actions. Her actions startled me. They made me frightened. They made me scared of the person with the different skin color. My own skin color different from theirs.
Of course, this is but one of a constellations of incidents, comments, and social messages I received growing up. Be afraid of black people they steal things and they talk like idiots, be afraid of native Americans, if you blow a tire on the reservation they will come after you and skin your head. They're savages. Beasts. Below us somehow. Piles of messages which were constantly reinforced by jokes, by insults, by distasteful incidents of fearful reactions to a person who looked or acted differently.
I moved to a rural town in southern Minnesota located in the center of several cornfields. I remember the first time I had to sit next to a black person. This was certainly not the first time he had to sit next to a white person. I remember feeling afraid. I remember thinking, "OMG why is this happening to me? This can't be happening. Why me." This as though it were the worst possible fate as a 9th grader in a new high school with a pile of new people. Sitting next to a white person who I didn't know would have been significantly more comfortable than sitting next to a black person I didn't know.
Read that last line again. "Sitting next to a white person who I didn't know would have been significantly more comfortable than sitting next to a black personI didn't know." It's an irritating and despicable thing to write, to hear, to read, to think, to contemplate, to analyze and wonder why about. To ponder. My racism was completely unzipped and I couldn't pinpoint what I was experiencing, or why I hated this situation so much. I couldn't understand why every time I crossed paths with a person of a different background than myself I felt so uncomfortable.
But I'm not racist, I had class with a black person. But, I'm not racist you see, I lived in an apartment where I was the minority. Humor: Neighbors - This story reflects my perception of us moving from the Iron Range to a rural community outside of the Twin Cities. I Italicized what I deemed to be important to my reflection on the experience.
The first place we lived was the worst mistake of both our lives. My mother decided on living in an jail cell or something the pot heads who lived there would call an apart-a-ment. It was all rather foreign to me and my mom because all of a sudden we were the minority in all of the categories.Sounds pretty racist right? I'm not racist because I have black friends! But still, when I walk within the capsule of inner St. Paul and I see someone who is different, wearing a hijab, has their pants low, a face coloration separate from my own, the rest, there still exists this tension. Depleting hopefully. But, I check myself now. I have no reason to fear someone different. I have black friends. Why do I fear them? Fear of the unknown or fear of what has been taught to us?
My mother was now considered skinny by comparison to our neighbors above us, I was considered white to the Afro-Americans and Beaners around us, and mom was also happy to say that she wasn't nearly as old in comparison to those around us.
Racism is learned. Socialization. Social learning theory. White's have privilege. There is privilege. Check your privilege. If you don't check your privilege you might come off as racist. But, I don't want to be racist. Racism is bad. I'm not racist but. . .
I'm not racist but, every time I see a black person I get this sixth sense that something is about to go wrong.
I'm not racist but, the black people moved in with their rottweilers.
I'm not racist but, I've been around a lot of black people and they do act that way.
Oh you know what I mean. . .
So what is really meant by racism is learned? My only answer comes from my psychology background and my exposure to little the little Albert experiment.
The similarities and parallel are certainly not intended to compare human beings to animals. The parallel is to connect that sound stimulus to the stimulus my grandmother introduced to me when she grabbed her purse and hollered for me to get closer. The two are the same. The constant presence of that fear perpetuates itself through learning. Through phrases like, "black people's music is bad" through constant exposure to ideas, attitudes, and actions that reinforce the fear, distrust, and dislike of "the other". Racism on the whole, is essentially a "big Albert" experiment.
To say that white's have a privilege to me simply seems like a fancy way I'm racist, but here is a really intellectual way to mask what I am aiming to say. It rubs raw with me to some extent. (These thoughts are open to critique.) To me, for myself, it is easier for me to say, I am racist but, I'm working on it because I understand why I am this way. Give me the chance to unlearn and relearn. . .