Friday, February 17, 2012

I am racist, I am homophobic

Got your attention, right? But here's the deal, it's totally true. I've been thinking a lot about bigotry lately, especially racism, but also sexism and homophobia. In my Political Science class we've been talking about how societal pressure keeps people from accurately self-reporting, i.e. more people say they go to church than really do and more people say they vote than really do. Also, my teacher says, no one responds "yes" to the question "are you a racist?" Also, Jeremy Lin, the basketball player and Harvard grad has brought up the racism discussion because he's a successful (so far) Asian NBA basketball player, which is relatively rare. Then there was that video of the guy interviewing BYU students about Black History Month, which I won't bother linking to. And I'm the only guy in a women's lit class, where the sexism of men is often discussed. And then, the prop 8 discussion keeps coming back and making me question my views on homosexuality.

Each situation has made me question if I am a bigot or not. Of course, I would love to say no, but that just isn't true. Every time I see an Asian male on campus now I want to congratulate him for Jeremy Lin's success, as if he represented the entire Asian community. Even though I've studied a fair amount of feminist literature, I still find myself assigning characteristics, like being overly concerned about appearance or being uninformed about the situation of the world, to one half of the human race that have nothing to do with being a female. And even though I know a lot of black history and have read a decent amount of African-American literature, I still think of it as "Black history" and "African-American Literature" rather than just "history" or "literature." And while I am an ardent supporter of gay rights, seeing two guys kiss still makes me uncomfortable.

What I'm saying is I think most people that consider themselves as "not at all racist" or "not at all bigoted" like I often have, are most likely fooling themselves. There may be some enlightened individuals, like the Dalai Lama (he's probably as close as anyone) who have succeeded in seeing the entire human race as one, but I don't think that is at all common. Some of that is just society. People still separate into distinct communities quite often. I don't blame anyone for seeking community, but as long as people feel that community can only be found in certain groups, separation, be it psychological or physical, between those groups will still occur. I've tried to openly and honestly study the people of the Middle East for four years straight now, and I am still terribly far away from recognizing their culture and beliefs as being as legitimate as my own.

I don't really know, then, if it is realistic to try to be non-racist or non-bigoted. Instead, I feel that for me, at least, it will probably be better to try to recognize my ingrained racism and try to combat it. I'll keep trying to increase my respect for people that I feel are different then me and try to encourage that same respect in others, and ignore people that accuse me or those who think like me of trying to be "politically correct" (although no one has accused me of doing that). It's all about trying to see every other person as equal in inherent worth and value as I do myself. Maybe that is setting my sights too low, but it is certainly, I think, a step in the right direction.



  1. Yeah I know what you mean. At DMU they make a huge deal out of cultural awareness. They even just hired someone specifically to teach how everyone is different. They concentrate on everyone being different so much that it makes everyone think about it more. I would like to think that black, white, asian is all the same to most educated people, but when they constantly remind us that everyone is different it makes it harder to see everyone the same.

  2. I doubt that you are racist. I am sure that you are not. Racism is more about potential. In the end it is a desire to destroy the other, enslave, force submission. It is more than a feeling it is a desire to do harm.

    I am a north american Indian and I suppose while I lived in Canada it was a daily part of my life.

    To the point that I became swiss and now live in mexico where i dont feel it anymore. Even a racist is quiet in africa unless he or she is the boss and has the power to force people. As such, racism, homophobia, are very hard words and harder sentiments that are capable of reaching out to maim and hurt. It is not the domain of the white person.

    Anyone who has these hard feelings based on human differences can be a racist.

  3. I guess you define racism totally different than I do. When we meet someone and they say where they are from, our brains starts filing through as much information on that place or culture as possible... this is a very good thing for our brains to do. Yeah we might UNINTENTIONALLY make errors and assumptions, but it is good to think through those things so that if there is a sensitive area, you can be cautious and try not to offend that person. To me those initial thoughts are not racist. It would be racist if I held those thoughts as absolutes and wouldn't let anything change my mind.

    I am in an intercultural communications class this semester and one of our assignments is to meet with someone from a different country once a week for one hour. I was assigned to a Muslim guy from Saudi Arabia, obviously my mind started jumping to all the things I have heard about that culture, but I didn't let that bother me in the slightest. We even talked about it during our first meeting. He told me a lot of people hear where he is from and his religion and just stop talking to him. My mind was willing to learn more and accept new perspectives. He even invited me over to eat some Arabic food with his cousins.

    Differences do exist between races and backgrounds and that is a good thing too. Differences are often celebrated. We can be reminded that people are different, we just shouldn't think that those differences determine how much you are respected or what rights you deserve. Those should always be the same.

    I'm familiar with the Brazilian culture because of my LDS mission and I love it. Many of them are more friendly and accepting of strangers than many places in the U.S. (still, some aren't though). That is something they do better for the most part. However, they often throw their trash all over their streets (some don't). This is something they generally do worse. By me pointing out that out doesn't mean I am not fully accepting their culture, I love the culture, but they can do some things better and we do somethings better. If I have to deal with some really ugly disgusting roads to still experience the Brazilian culture, no problem. If a Brazilian comes here and has to deal with people that are not as close-knit, or initially welcoming in order to enjoy some benefits we have, no problem. They can still make tons of friends, I mean, it's not like we are THAT cold and disconnected.

    There are also opinion-based differences. I like our music WAY better than their music. Does that mean that we are doing something right and they are doing something wrong? No. I just grew up in a different place with different things. I loved talking with Brazilians about likes and dislikes, and I usually liked the banter back and forth as to which cultural gems were better or worse. So, Tim, just because you have not fully recognized the culture of the Middle East as legitimately as you own, doesn't make you racist unless you are convinced that you are better than them because of those difference.

    I think if you try and broaden the definition of racism to what you are implying by saying that no one can say they are not racist, the meaning of the word is lost, much like C.S. Lewis depicts in the preface of Mere Christianity about the word Christian, or gentleman. So you can say you are not a racist by the conventional term and then if you need to work on initial judgments, preconceived notions and things like that, you can. But you are very open-minded to other people and their way of life, so I would not say that racism is a word to describe you.

  4. I totally agree with what you've said. I don't think it matters whether or not it is intentional. I think it has more to do with our willingness to self-evaluate and self-report. If everyone were more willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations about our own short-comings, weaknesses and ignorances - it would hopefully stop being so uncomfortable and we could get beyond the labels and into some true introspection.