Sunday, 6 December 2009
'The Difference Between Prejudice and Racism'
Today, I feel very blessed to have a large group of white friends, who share many of the same views as I do, on this subject. And without their support, I hasten to say that my efforts to educate myself and others, about racism, and the need to eradicate it all together, would be pretty impossible.
This is also true of the many friends that I have been blessed with, who are black of African descent, who are of Asian descent, and friends of all other racial groups. I feel immense gratitude to God, that I have such a wonderful mixture of friends, who are equally determined to be free from racism, and to see it completely removed from our society. There may be some differences of opinion, on the best way to go about this end, but my friends and I all generally concur that the racism existing in our world today, is an unnecessary evil, that needs to be eradicated as quickly and efficiently as possible. We believe in the power of Love as a tool to achieve this end.
Recently, I had a long discussion with one such white friend of mine, whom I hold in very high esteem. This is largely because, he is a rare wise soul who has been through the mill in life, and suffered many obstacles, yet has managed to overcome them and come out shining with his integrity as a being, intact. He today, has a tremendous level of understanding and compassion regarding human misery. I respect his views on life immensely because he lives what he believes.
The friend in question told me, that it may surprise me to know that, as a white person, he had suffered racism as a child, in school. Apparently he had been picked on and bullied, by some Asian kids at his school, for being white, and in the minority. Most of his school mates were non-whites. These boys had decided to vent their anger and frustration, about the racism they and their family had experienced in society, upon my white friend, even though he personally, had done them no such wrong. I thought this point was worth consideration - The fact that racism, is not simply a 'white only' issue, but concerns the entire human race. Really, none of us whatever race we are, can claim to be completely immune from the effects of racism. I aim through this blog to demonstrate that we have all been adversely affected, whether directly or indirectly, by racism. I was therefore, able to console my friend regarding his experience, as indeed sometimes, in battles, innocent people get caught up in the cross fire, and unwittingly receive a bullet wound. This is why it is so important not to blindly pigeon hole people, based on their outward appearances or skin colour. You could be doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice and be attacking an angel, or at least an ally. We need to be conscious of our actions on others, at all times. And to be aware that any kind of prejudice, whether of colour, race, religion, creed, gender etc, is immoral. Having said that, there is however a difference between having a prejudice, and racism. What is the difference you may ask? Well, here is how the Webster dictionary defines prejudice:-
'preconceived judgment or opinion (2) an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristic.'
Notice, that we all have some prejudices towards, or against certain kinds of people. There are prejudices for instance in favor of, or against rich people, or poor people, lawyers, police officers, fat people, thin people, extroverts, introverts, conservatives or liberals, smokers, nonsmokers, motor-cyclists, taxi drivers, hippies, long haired men, or people with dread locks; or women in mini skirts, etc...etc.. the list goes on. Many of those prejudices however, are not institutionalized, in the way that racism is. I mean to say that many of the individual prejudices that we hold, though unhelpful at best and harmful at worst, have not been deliberately woven, into the very fabric of our society, so that the institutions, such as our legal system, health system, education system, housing system, financial and economic system, are built upon the prejudice, and actually helping to prop it up, in the way that racism, has been systematically woven into the fabric of our society. Do you see the difference?
Racism is more intricate and more premeditated, because it is part of the essential way that the system runs. Institutionalized racism has a subliminal or subconscious under-current. A systematic, and repetitive way of projecting itself into our lives, by the very nature of the system we live by and live in. Please read that again. This is powerful stuff. we know how powerful the sub-conscious mind is.
We have witnessed this kind of manifestation very clearly in the old apartheid systems of S. Africa, and Zimbabwe. We have also witnessed and experienced the effects of the old system of British colonialism, some of the consequences of that are still evident in the problems that many African countries still face today. We have witnessed the results of the racial segregation that was socially engineered in the Deep South of America, where it was legalized. Many of us are aware of these facts of history, since these were the very things that people like Dr. Martin Luther King, President J. Kennedy, and President Nelson Mandela stood up against, and laid their lives down, to change.
But even though such apartheid systems thankfully, have now been made illegal, there is still a prevailing level of racism that is still evident, and lingering around mostly subconsciously, in our current systems of today. Racism is still very much alive guys, only in more subtle forms and variations.
Let's take a closer look at the definition of Institutional Racism:-
Institutional Racism: Definition
'(Also structural racism and systemic racism) is any form of racism occurring specifically within institutions such as public government bodies, private business corporations, and universities (public and private).
Institutional racism is one of three forms of racism: (i) Personally-mediated, (ii) internalized, and (iii) institutional.
The term institutional racism was coined by Stokely Carmichael, the black nationalist, pan-africanist and "honorary prime minister" of the Black Panther Party, who, in the late 1960s, defined institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”.1
Furthermore, Institutional racism: is the differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society. When the differential access becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, and public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers. Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator. When racism is built into the institution, it appears as the collective action of the population.
The statements in bold, make it clear for us to see the difference between our normal every day prejudices, the ones we act on out of ignorance; and racism.
I am pointing out this difference, not to undermine the very real suffering that people like my dear friend, have experienced at the hands of ignorant bullies acting out their prejudices on others; but so as to fully acknowledge, the level and depth at which racism does exist, and how it undermines us all. I am also pointing out the difference, so that we do face up to, the amount of work that actually needs to be done, to eradicate racism completely, from within our individual selves, and also our society's collective consciousness. For us to heal from racism completely, we need to be fully aware of the extent to which it impacts our lives, and in particular, the lives of those who are at the receiving end, of the brunt of it on a daily basis.
I have direct and personal experience, of the effects of; on the one hand - bullying activities by individuals on account of their personal prejudices; and on the other hand - racism that is institutional and systemised. Though neither of them have been pleasant experiences, my experiences of the latter, were by far the more debilitating.
I would love to hear other people's views and experiences about this. Please add your own insights in the 'comments section' of this blog. You can even do so anonymously if you wish.
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Article by Rev.Bola A. (copyright:7Dec'09 -ARR)
Posted by Rev.Dr. Bola at 18:05