Thursday, July 9, 2009

Racism: contribution to the dialogue.

Several years ago, Tahar Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan novelist living in France, wrote a book titled "Racism, As Explained To My Daughter".  In this book he tells his daughter "You are not born a racist, you become one."
Well, maybe, I thought, but ...... you are not born a non-racist either, yet very few people seem to become one.  Especially in America.
I find the term 'racism' to be a hurdle to addressing the problem of racial discrimination.  A mere recognition of differences is not inherently racist.  To think it is reinforces stupid thought.
The cover story of the March/April 2000 issue of Poets and Writers magazine was the novelist Ana Castillo.  In the interview, Castillo remarks that she doesn't write in "standard white English"  but in "second-language English."   In her creative moments, she "rejects hierarchical thinking characteristical of Western Culture" and chooses instead "spirituality."  She speaks disapprovingly of "the homogenization of Latino culture" and states that she doesn't write for a 'gringo audience."
Is this racist?  Or is it an honest recognition of differences?
I believe it is the latter.
What would  persons who became  non-racist be like?  How would they deal with the recognition of differences?  How would they employ the concept of difference without offending someone?  And if they were unsuccessful in this effort, would they be termed 'racist'?
What man hasn't felt at a disadvantage upon finding himself in a room full of women?   Or, vice versa?
What poor person wouldn't be intimidated by the wealth and luxury of Tiffanys?
At school bus stops, the girls cluster on one side while the boys form their own group some distance away.  This is normal, natural, even comical.  But if whites and blacks form their own groups in a college cafeteria, this is evidence of racism.  Why?
If we can be taught racism, is it possible that we can be taught to see racism where it doesn't exist in order to help us in the struggle to eliminate it where it can be found?
If so, how will we know when we have done the best that can be done?

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