Sunday, December 14, 2014

Racism, Part 3: False Racism

Uncomfortableness

You know that feeling when you walk down the street and see someone that is not like you, and you get a little uncomfortable? ...this is the origin of what I call False Racism. 
 
I am white, and I live in a pretty white area, but demographics are changing, especially in the closest town, where I use community services like the Y and the library.

When I go through the grocery, or walk down the street and see a non white person, I get uncomfortable sometimes because I am affected by white guilt (the overwhelming feeling that people who are different, especially people with different complexions, are treated badly). Now, white guilt is a function of white supremacy, as I stated in an earlier post.

It is not just white guilt though. It could be a disabled person, an old person with Kyphosis, a very large person or just any very different person.

Uncomfortableness is a natural reaction to me trying to fit this experience into my neural-networks. It is me trying to place my identity in reference or relevance to this new experience. I am not sure how I will do this, until...

I make eye contact. I smile.

Then the situation is usually diffused and I feel accepted, the same, good humans...able to engage in whatever situation may come up, even if it is just, "Hi! How's it goin'"

And then, what happens if the 'other' person is feeling uncertain too (or just having a bad day and has a sour face)? I look at them uncertain, they look at me uncertain, one or each may become paralyzed with fear, or mistake the uncomfortableness of uncertainty (or general state of unhappiness) with indignation...no smiles...we project and take the other persons feelings as a validation of our fears...and then we react with hate or indignation or offense.

Still, the people may be sharing the same feelings, but misconstrued. They feel like they are being judged. Bad human feelings that lead to misunderstanding, fear, hate and at the extreme-violence.

One facet of racism is just one big messy downward spiral of societal projection.

This is not racism...this is natural human behavior that can be conquered with a sense of respect and civility and community. See my post on The Process of Liberty.

We are naturally biased toward what we know, what we think is normal, or what we feel more comfortable with. This starts at birth, and continues through our journey to 'find ourselves' and 'our place in the world.'

'Finding our place' happens on a personal level, with ourselves- with our family- our community- and our national identities. It is a source of much conflict in each of those areas, from schizophrenia to civil war.

Read this article from Parent Map, it explains much. 

This is why I think it is really important for a place like the US, with so much diversity, to recognize our multiracial heritage and to have national celebrations around our real heritage- so that we can make those neural-connections and place ourselves comfortably in reference to all the 'others' who are our neighbors...so that we may have a national identity.

Having a cohesive, healthy national identity can help solve issues from schizophrenia to civil war.

Characterization

Humans characterize what we don't know for the same 'identifying' reasons...to make some sort of sense out of things we don't understand...the Black witch doctor from the swamps, the cowboy, the mystic Arabian, or the terrorist Palestinian, or the snobby Britt, whatever... deep sea creatures and aliens... things we do not have personal experience with, we try to characterize to fit into some frame of reference for ourselves.

Sometimes characterizations are bad and sometimes they are good. After WWII, much of the world had a good characterization of the USA; or bad, like media portrayal of black people as violent criminals, gang members and drug dealers.

Characterization most often paints an inaccurate picture, but becomes a conditioning of our neural networks, even though the relation is wrong. This may be called implicit bias and may lead to explicit bias. For instance, seeing black people as criminals on TV can make one bias against black people, and fear them, subconsciously; or a person can take this cultural characterization as fact and consciously report their bias explicitly.

I would qualify that implicit and explicit beliefs can be true, but the word bias, refers to an unreasoned, skewed, or unfair judgment.
 
These False Assumptions of the 'other' are what I am calling False Racism...and should be able to be 'fixed' by proper recognition through history education, cultural intelligence, and a general sense of respect and civility in society.

These misunderstandings are internalized in our culture, and then acted out as if spokes of reality, when, in fact, we are creating problems by projecting a false reality. Per the examples above about the characterization of the USA after WWII and the characterization of Black Americans now through media...many in the USA internalized that good characterization and took that on as an identity, just as many Black Americans may internalize the images they see and take those false images on as an identity...thus perpetuating the false images.

This is why lying is bad people! And why being able to discern fact from fiction is really important (it is sad that at this time in history, these points are particularly poignant).

In a diverse society, such as our own, let us seek true understanding of each other through quality relationships, proper recognition, respect, and civility. It can heal our us as individuals and as a nation.

Make a great day!
-Kathryn

Next time...Why I'm Giving Up White Guilt.

I am linking Jesse Jacksons 1997 interview with Frontline on this post as well, in case you missed it. The interview has a perspective on black american culture that was new to me, and touches on constructing identity.

How misinformation creates false memories