The term “racism” has overwhelmed our senses in the past several months, abetted by vivid media coverage of aggressive police actions as well as the violent reactions of some demonstrators in our streets.
In my view, racism has two primary manifestations, both of which are built on foundations of misunderstanding and fear.
“Class racism” defines a person's stereotypical view of people of various races and ethnic backgrounds. This is the type of racism most likely to be “systemic” and often the product of our upbringing.
In extreme examples of class racism, whites can think of Asians as sly and self-serving, Hispanics as lazy, Blacks as lawless and dangerous. Blacks can think of whites as privileged and manipulative devils who exploit political and economic systems to keep Blacks from having a fair share of the “American pie.”
Often, class racism is a reflection of family attitudes that are passed from generation to generation and are difficult to vacate, since doing so can be interpreted as an act of familial disloyalty which can adversely affect family relations.
Class racism affects how we view strangers. Broadly classifying masses of people by their skin color infects our minds with stereotypes that cloud our own judgments and limit our effectiveness in dealing with strangers.
Class racism therefore diminishes our capabilities to excel in almost any professional or interpersonal situation.
“Individual racism” is reflected in our attitude toward those people from different races and ethnicities whom we personally know, either as friends or as acquaintances.
Unfortunately, our stance with class racism can overlay this attitude; however, common interests and goals make individual racism easier to “cure.” The more contact we have with others, and the more we can understand their hopes, goals, fears and struggles, then the more we can share in their efforts for success and happiness.
Understanding is the key to success in combating racism, and the better we can know an individual, the better we can understand.
As the majority race in America, whites can take their whiteness for granted. Because of the difficulties associated with minority status, non-whites can never take their “non-whiteness” for granted.
What to do
Make eye contact and smile: When encountering a person of another race, whether on the street or in a store, restaurant or office, look them straight in the eye and nod or, if appropriate, offer a greeting and, most important of all, smile!
Broaden your tent: Most people live in social ghettos. Whether white, black, yellow or tan, we tend mostly to hang out with people of our own race. We can combat our own racist tendencies by seeking out people of other races to spend social time with. Remember, the better we know the better we understand.
Don't judge: You're not walking in their shoes. Resist temptations to be judgmental.
Educate yourself: By reading, attending seminars or watching videos, familiarize yourself with the history of the settlement of the different races in our country. Become aware of the unique concerns and difficulties of people of different races.
Pray: Ask your God daily for the wisdom and strength to rid yourself of racism.
William Dotterweich is a Fort Wayne resident.