Saturday, March 21, 2009

Individual vs. the group


I’m not racist, I have a black friend/cousin/relative/spouse/etc.

I’ve heard some form of this statement many times, from many people, and in many forms. Usually it precedes some statement disparaging another race, or a question about said race. It is a sort of personal defense, or proof, to deflect potential accusations or suspicion when a white person enters into the mine field of racial discussions.

Now white people aren’t the only ones who use this, I have heard black people use it too. Strangely enough I have only heard them use it in reference to other minorities, not whites. As in, “I got Asian friends and all, but why do the Koreans own all the stores?”

Many white people have no problem getting to know or befriending a black person, or any other minority for that matter, but still fail to understand or feel comfortable with groups of minorities. Realize that in doing so you are ignoring, discrediting, or simply missing a large part of who that person is.

The ability to like or love an individual in no way proves a level of understanding or appreciation for the group that person belongs to. Quite often the love for the person comes as a result of ignoring or discrediting that person’s group.

I have been told that I don’t count when someone was disparaging others of my race, as well as where I come from. Those telling me this meant it as a compliment, it was not.

I AM white.

I AM from Utah.

To say that I am not like all the others who share these things is to rob me of who I am. Could it be that if you like me than just maybe there are others from my group worth liking as well? Could it be we are not as bad as you think? What if some of the things you like about me, I gained due to my background?

Here is a small test. Be honest with yourself.

Sure you have a black friend, but how do you feel when you stumble onto a large group of black people? Are you comfortable being the only white person? If you see a TV program or movie with a mostly black cast, what do you assume? Is this friend of yours different than the"others"? Do you view said friend differently when they are in a group of "their" people?

Realize that the proponents of Apartheid in South Africa, Jim Crow in America, and even the Klan have professed to not disliking minorities but simply want the group of them to be kept away.

Now to be fair, someone using the “but I have a black family member” should not be automatically discredited. Loving an individual is a start. For race relations to move forward we have to take those who have a “start” and bring them the rest of the way. When this self professed non-racist then asks why black people think its cool to fail at school, don’t slap them… answer the question. I would probably answer the question by pointing out how the football team in my nearly all white school made fun of my decent grades. I would point out how the smart kids were rarely the “cool” kids in my school (this is not to say that many of the cool kids were not smart. Many were smart enough not to act like it in order to maintain the social rung they wanted). Maybe I would suggest, “ask a black person if they think Barack is either smart or cool”.

Point being, help in the process. The question this person asks may sound crazy, but when is the last time you actually learned something while getting told you were stupid?

22 comments:

Rob said...

Dalyn,

That was a fantastic post. That was the best explanation I've ever read/heard of why having a (black/brown/asian/white) friend does not grant you immunity from being prejudiced.

It had always bothered me when I heard people say that but I'd never been able to think of such a good explanation for exactly why those two things don't always go together.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Just because you are not comfortable in a group of Black people as a white person or vice versa, you may need to check yourself?
Disagree.
Plenty of situations are uncomfortable- that does not constitute racism.
The rest of the post is prvoking but on this portion, defend thyself.
-Kay M.

brohammas said...

Rob, thanks. It is good to hear every now and then.

"Anon", thank you for illustrating why people are so reluctant to have discussions on race, with your automatic assumption that a call to "check yourself" is the same as an accuation of racism.

I simply ask that if you find yourself uncomfortable with a group of the "other" but not the individual, you should ask yourself "why?"
Why is it you see a group of someone as different(which they ver well may be)? If one finds themselves uncomfortable they obviously see that group as different than themselves and/or are unacustomed to said group.
being uncomfortable is not a sign of prejudice but a a reaction within ones' self that should be looked at and addressed.
It is simply an internal sign that one may not be as "evolved" as they think they are.

Corbie said...

Just being the devil's advocate here...was the poor grammar you chose to use in your quote or the fact that you chose to repeat (even if in "quote" format) the question about Asians racist in any way?

brohammas said...

There are elements of racism in both the grammar and the question... the question would be how many, or which "elements" must be present before a declaration is made. I would say my inclusion of that paragraph constitutes more race baiting than racism.

lyric said...

It's nice to have someone bring up questions that I've never asked myself. You're right - we need a lot more individual interaction between races.

I'm uncomfortable in any new group of people - so I pretend that I'm totally comfortable - and by the end of the time I almost always really am comfortable and have made good friends.

".... whistle a happy tune and no one will suspect..."

uglyblackjohn said...

I wish more people of ALL races were open to going beyond their comfort levels.
I have young cousins who get embarrassed if I hear them listening to Rock, riding a skateboard, speaking in SAE, or thinking that Hanna Montana is cute. It seems that many from all races put limitations on themselves.

(What happened to all the Utah teams)

brohammas said...

UBJ, you had to slip that last bit in, didnt you?

Jenna said...

I do not know where I fall on the racist category. I think that living on the East coast has helped open my eyes.

Last weekend we were in DC & rode the Metro almost everywhere we went. We were riding back later one evening to the hotel when I looked around & realized that we were the only white people on the train. I didn't feel threatened by the fact - I just saw everyone as moms taking their kids home, brothers, friends, & others going about their day-to-day life. I think that in the past I may have been more nervous - but skin color did not affect my ideas about my fellow passengers.

I remember being in Disney World on a family vacation & listening to people talking to their kids in all types of languages. I loved the fact that kids & parents are generally more alike than different across the globe. Although I could not understand the words, I could see body language & hear tone of speech & figure out what was going on.

Corbie said...

I wanted to come back and say that I liked this post.

Also, I wanted to publicly state that I am not a man-hater. My proof? I'm married to one :)

Jake said...

whats up with you blocking my post?

brohammas said...

As much as I would like to block a post from you Jake, there hasn't been one on this subject to block. Sometimes when one is looking for the cause of a problem, the best place to look is in the mirror.

Corbie said...

He's a total censor now...ever since that other dude allegedly censored him, he's gone nuts with the power that the 'publish' button affords him.

brohammas said...

Don't give that guy so much credit. I've been drunk with the "publish" power since my first post.
I'm so drunk with it I only let about 1/3 of my own comments through.

Corbie said...

...which makes you both drunk and wise...

Ha! I crack myself up.

Jake said...

I posted like a 3 page comment a few days ago, and it was so awesome and amazing of a rebuttal mixed in with some agreement, that not only did you apparently refuse to post it, but there is no way i could repeat it again without losing some of its soul-piercing power.

brohammas said...

Are you sure you want to be a foot doctor? Because I think you could be a great fiction writer.

classical one said...

Why is it that people divide themselves based on race or ethnicity? Why are America's prisons voluntarily segregated? Why are our lunchrooms seated by race or nationality?

People naturally look for things to divide them from others. This is probably a left over evolutionary trait from long ago; people were alone in small tribes, scattered around the globe. The coming together of disparate races, religions, and ethnic groups has been the scene of monumental violence throughout history. My guess is that xenophobia and racism are outgrowths of long ago survival strategies. The more someone was like and your tribe, the more they shared your priorities.

Mr. Noface said...

Great Post! I agree that many of us are quick to make snap judgments about people who exhibit the tendencies that you discussed in your post. Statements like "that's racist" or "you're racist" rarely lead to any kind of meaningful dialogue (whether contentious or not) and the person in question rarely ever learns something about him/herself. Perhaps it’s just another way to avoid the real conversation we all need to be having.

Hagoth L said...

Good post Dalyn. I actually feel more comfortable in a group of 'white people' than in a group of polynesians. In fact, I rarely go to polynesian get-togethers anymore because I feel very uncomfortable. Playing rugby and making some polynesian friends on the team is helping to ease that tension I have but it's still there nonetheless.

brohammas said...

Thanks Hagoth.
Not everyone would admit that but I'm glad you did. I have a real concern that my bir-racial children will not be comfortable with other black or white kids, unless they have real life interraction with them.
For me this is the biggest reason I won't move back "home". I want them to not only appreciate their black background, but feel a comfortable part of it.
Thanks again......


PROPS RULE!!!!

JDR said...

classical one said...

Why is it that people divide themselves based on race or ethnicity? Why are America's prisons voluntarily segregated? Why are our lunchrooms seated by race or nationality?

People naturally look for things to divide them from others. This is probably a left over evolutionary trait from long ago; people were alone in small tribes, scattered around the globe. The coming together of disparate races, religions, and ethnic groups has been the scene of monumental violence throughout history. My guess is that xenophobia and racism are outgrowths of long ago survival strategies. The more someone was like and your tribe, the more they shared your priorities.

************************************

This is a good theory, but it contradicts the incest taboo theory. Would it not make more sense to marry out to different tribes for economic and political alliances to form instead of just counting on just the people in your tribe. I actually believe that racism and xenophobia is similar to religion, in that it develops as a way to explain things that people don't understand. People don't understand that people are usually a reflection of their psychological condition as it relates to the way they were raised and their environment. For the most part, people aren't born bad or "evil". These are things that people learn in life as a result of traumatic psychological experiences and which could be based on genetics psychological disorders passed or maybe even learn as a result of nurturing or lack thereof from their parents. In addition, sociological norms and economic conditions also effects a persons behavior and can ultimately contribute to who this person will be. All people are different and at the same time they are the same. Very rarely will to people ever be alike because it is very close to impossible replicate all the exact same experience in a persons to live to that of an others, even in identical twins. Racism and Xenophobia will probably never disappear until humans evolve mentally to the point where complete understanding of psychology, biology, economics, and sociology is just common knowledge to everyone. When people get to the point of being able to precisely pin point what makes people tick and how to solve inefficiency in society then there will really be progress. Hopefully it comes soon, because the world is becoming a smaller place, the way information travels now, cultures will soon be meshing and in the future, most cultures will probably be close to indistinguishable from one another.