Racism can’t be eliminated only through discourse, legislation or black screens on our social media; it requires a much deeper change.
Once again, a video shared showing the death of a black person following disproportionate police action in the USA has put racism in the limelight. Once again, protests in the country have literally set the streets on fire and, almost everywhere in the world, reactions have emerged expressing, in one way or another, rejection towards this racism that, again, has caused death and outrage.
What seems more difficult to focus on and acknowledge is that racism that excludes, restricts, limits, discriminates and kills is not only a regrettable and historical truth in the United States, but that it is also present in our streets and our neighbourhoods and cities. Yes, racism is very much present in the daily lives of many people in Europe, in all America, Asia, Oceania and in Africa. And yes, “we aren’t racist”, but…we all carry a social burden, preconceived ideas and stereotypes on people, cultures, the colour of our skin. Obviously they are not always negative, but we need only to stop and look at ourselves in full honesty to realize.
The problem with racism is that all too often it isn’t obvious, but rather subtle. The problem with racism is that it isn’t just expressed by people, but it is rooted in public and private institutions and policies. The problem with racism is that in many fields it has been normalized as part of this “bad luck” for some just because they are different or are part of a minority in a determined context. The problem with racism is that it is made invisible in so many aspects of life, it is justified and it is believed to be an isolated matter that is alien to our closest social ambience.
The problem with racism is that those who haven’t experienced it or seen it first-hand will find it hard to believe it exists and it happens, since it is always easier to justify it and call it another way before acknowledging it in all its cruelty. The problem with racism is that it has always existed as a way of reproducing power relationships in society and that it is therefore a conscious and unconscious part of many social practices that set hierarchies, oppress and stigmatize. Racism is present in all our emotions, perceptions, relationships, knowledge, interests and ways of living, but still we continue to deny it exists, here and now.
That is why racism can’t be eliminated only through discourse, legislation or black screens on our social media; it requires a much deeper change. That is also why the fight against racism cannot be based on imaginary moral, ethical and intellectual superiorities, and can neither be seen from the view of sensitivity and empathy towards those who are different from us; it is more about comprehension, education, vindication and empowerment to bring down the structures of oppression and inequality. That is why to start ending racism we all need to take a careful look at ourselves and to recognize and question the origin of our prejudice; I insist, we all have some form of prejudice, we need to identify and break away from the origin of the stereotypes that have grown in us, we need to realise that we are privileged due to our characteristics and our personal environment.
We will only end racism when someone who is ignorant of human rights or insensitive to the anti-racist struggle picks up a text like this one or reacts to a racist situation; only then will racism be seen as a topic of importance to the majority of society’s sectors, and only then will everyone feel the call to act in front of a racist situation, even if they are not directly affected. While that moment arrives, we would like to encourage everyone to examine their “buts”, even if we consider ourselves to be anti-racists, and to make visible all forms of racism in our daily lives in any manifestation and to stop it from becoming consolidated in our homes, neighbourhoods and cities. Racism is not normal. Racism is degrading, it hurts and it kills.
I am not racist, but my society still is. I am not racist and I would like it if you weren’t either…