[This post written by guest blogger JustAnotherTeen]
I have just completed a summer program at the southeastern university that I will be attending starting next week. The program was a math refresher course for incoming freshmen, around 30 in total with four being a minority and four being female. I have three suitemates, and since the beginning I have not exactly liked them due to their belief that school is more about parties than learning attitude. On a few occasions I had observed some racist comments, but until last week, there was nothing to go off the deep end about.
I was shocked and dismayed at the comments that my (white) roommates made. They were appalled about a white girl having sex with a black guy. I was appalled at the extreme amount of racism in the air. They came up with no less than five derogatory phrases for an interracial couple. They talked about how much they hated interracial relationships, whether they were in one or it was someone they had seen on the street.
The strange thing was that they had no problem with the black guys in our class. Their only problem was what they saw as a very degrading relationship for the girl. Not to give the impression that they actually cared about the girl, they were actually more disgusted in her than in the guy. They said that if their little sister brought home anything but a member of the ‘Aryan race’ there would be an ensuing hanging in the back yard, likely of both the sister and her new boyfriend.
Personally, this is a hard situation for me to comprehend because I, honestly, think racism is idiotic. I was not raised by my family to think that any race is supreme. I was taught that we are all humans. My grandparents were more racist, but I was not exposed to much of that. And so the open racism involved in this is not something I am used to, and not something I can stomach well. I mean, I realize I should almost expect it, living in the south, but I suppose I was kind of sheltered. Even more influential than the lack of racism in my family is the fact that my older brother was in an interracial relationship when I was around twelve or so. At the time, I thought nothing of it, anymore than I thought anything about my other brother’s white girlfriend.
I am disappointed that the south, and likely the country as a whole, cannot move on past interracial relationships. For over 40 years interracial marriages have been legal in this country (INSERT WIKI LINK). Why then, have we not moved on? Segregation is over. Separate but equal is history (as far as race goes, lets not get into sexual orientation discrimination).
I honestly am at a loss…how does one respond to such comments? How do you deal with such blatant bigotry?
I’m an African American man in an interracial relationship. I would say it comes down to standing up and speaking out. I’m from Philadelphia and currently live in the soncervative small town of Harrisburg PA where just being a person from Philly is a strike against me. I’m a UU, another strike, and I don’t like watching sports, the third strike. So you would think I would keep my mouth shut about intolerance.
I don’t I’m open about my support for gay rights and I quickly take to task any anti-semetic or homophobic statements made by my co-workers black or white. Again, I could just keep my mouth shut and work harder to fit in, but I was raised that silence equates with acceptance.
Even when as a teen I stayed at an Arizona Junior College where I was one of 12 blacks in a town of 30,000 I followed my heart. There the reigning minority at the time were the native americans who were shunned by the wites. I, however, shocked the town by being friends with them. (Actually it ended up giving nerdy me the image of being some sort of super tough guy)
I’m not saying to be defiant at all costs. I am saying that pointing out to a racist that their behavior is ugly and not condoned is the first step.
Will it be uncomfortable? Yes.
Will there be retaliation? Yes.
Will you emerge a better person? Yes.
Remember this too, only by exposing racists can their inappropriate behavior be addressed and maybe…just maybe changed.
Thanks Chuck. I will really have to try to speak out more often!
Thanks for sharing JustAnotherTeen. I am 31 years old and grew up with a message of racism. Fortunately, the society I grew up in contradicted that message and I taught me differently. I still find traces of racism and disapproval of interracial couples in the people I grew up with. Some of them hide behind the idea that children from interracial couples suffer because they are different, which I believe is incredibly outdated (if it ever existed).
I had a conversation with some coworkers about racism a few years back and we all agreed that it will end when we stop teaching it. I feel sorry for your roommates that they have been taught something so terribly incorrect. The good news is that you and I (and everyone reading this) can teach the truth about race and interracial relationships and lead by example. Speaking out is important, but it is important that you do it as to not alienate those you are trying to teach. I appreciate your attitude on this subject. I find that more young people I know share your attitude and that gives us all encouragement.
Yes, I definitely think those attitudes are less prevalent in my generation, but I fear it will take several more generations before the become virtually nonexistent. I have always thought that each generation passes down a fraction of their beliefs, but it still takes time to go away.
This post was uncomfortbly topical for me. I just spent a couple of days with a branch of my family still burdened with a great deal of prejudice. Although no one there would use an obvious racial slur – all references to folks of other races were “they” and “them”. As in “What I don’t understand is why *they* don’t blah blah blah…” or “It’s not racism. A lot of *them* are decent hard working folks…”
Since the whole point of the visit was to reconnect and overcome some lingering astrangement, it was hard for me to speak up.
I can’t wrap my mind around this sort of thing, although the part I have trouble with isn’t so much that people are racist–they are–but the sexual violence implied in the situation of wanting to kill your own sister because you didn’t like her boyfriend’s skin color. Men don’t have the right to dominate over women like that, and it’s very disturbing that they think they do, here, and now.
I would say this to your dilemma. Back in the mid 1980’s I came home for a visit from college and became reacquainted with my cousin Milton who is openly glouriously gay. My family is very liberal, but he made some of family uncomfortable. My other cousin who I had known since we were both three was openly homophobic. At an event I sat next to Milton and chatted with him: joking and openly accepting him and his life. He became part of my circle of friends whenever I visited home and soon my family was not only accepting, but couldn’t invite him to enough events. Now he is the Godfather of my only son, and everybody has told me I made an excellent choice.
Speaking up…it does a body good.
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