We’ve Become Desensitised to Racism

I’m a white male and with that comes privilege. From a young age I always knew racism was wrong but also thought it was a thing of the past. We learnt about racism in history, we were shown the terrible treatment people were subjected to, we couldn’t believe how people were treated. I associated racism with older generations, too lazy or indoctrinated to change their views, a way of thinking that would be erased as the older generations die. But it’s 2016 and we still see racism daily; in the news, on social media, in person. Racism hasn’t left, we’ve just become desensitised. We’re so used to racism it no longer shocks us and that’s a problem. 

We only have to look at the UK and US to see just how many issues still haven’t been addressed. Brexit and the rise of UKIP highlights some of the issues we have here in the UK. Whilst I voted to remain in the EU, I understood there were logical reasons why some people were choosing to vote leave particularly in terms of business agreements and UK legislation rules. However, a lot of the Brexit campaign was based on xenophobia, using immigration as an excuse for the downfalls of our government and country. It seems almost ironic or simply ridiculous that a nation who controlled the British Empire and forced themselves upon countries around the world are now deciding they want independence.

Of course the recent US election bares perhaps an even more depressing reality check. A man ran a campaign fueled by hatred and intolerance and won the election. It baffles me that a man who is so openly sexist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic to name but a few, was voted into power. The majority of voters who voted for Donald Trump were college educated white women and I cannot understand how a woman was comfortable voting for a man who has joked about sexual assault and repeatedly made sexist, derogatory comments towards women. Regardless of Hilary Clinton’s flaws, she did not run a campaign based on hatred and intolerance and I believe her concession speech only highlighted the hopes she had for young girls and women in America.

As I write this I have just seen a story stating that a Mayor in America has said “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified first lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels” about Michelle Obama. Michelle, a woman who has fought to improve the education for girls around the world, improved the support for veterans, service members and their family and fought to address the issue of childhood obesity to name a few of her achievements. The fact that a woman who has achieved so much and has held her position with respect and dignity can be torn down because of her skin colour baffles me.

It’s 2016 and people still have issues over something people cannot control. The pigment of someone’s skin should not scare you, it should not intimidate you, it should not make you feel anything at all. Respect people’s heritage, celebrate cultures around the world, educate yourselves on different ways of life but do not allow someone to be discriminated because of the colour of their skin.

One of the most common excuses I have heard when witnessing an old person make racist comments is that it’s just their generation, they don’t know better. This very ideology is ridiculous, with age comes experience and they have witnessed the unnecessary horrors racism and discrimination has caused over time. If anything, older generations should be more switched on than any of us and realise racism only produces negativity.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on my own behaviour and prejudgments and I’m in no way perfect. I make assumptions based on stereotypes, I’m ignorant to a lot of modern racism issues that people face everyday. I’m worried I will come across as preachy but having the conversation is important. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently and have been discussing it with my friends but it was Hannah Hart’s video response to the recent US election that made me decide to write this post.

Have conversations, ask questions, challenge discrimination.

Have a great day,
Ben

If you liked this post you may also like White People, Get In Formation or White Supremacy & Cultural Appropriation.

 

White People, Get In Formation

When I first watched Beyoncé’s new video I was impressed with the song and visuals as well as the political and social issues they addressed but it seems not everyone agrees. Ever since Beyoncé released the video for Formation on Saturday and performed at the 50th Super Bowl I have been following some of the commentary on various social media sites and was shocked at some people’s views.

Formation highlights issues America and the wider world are still struggling with whilst Beyoncé celebrates and proudly claims her heritage, culture and looks. Mainstream media often depicts the white women as the ideal for female beauty, an ideal which Beyoncé is defying as she celebrates her features. This will hopefully teach younger black women who are influenced by the media and pop culture to embrace their looks and culture regardless of the ideals society and mainstream media may promote.

“I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”

 

Some viewers have suggested Beyoncé’s video and performance was ‘anti-police’. Take for example, the imagery of Beyoncé, a powerful and respected black woman sat on top of a sinking police car. This imagery on a quick glance could be seen as ‘anti-police’ but when thought about on a deeper and critical level the message is clear. Police brutality and institutionalised racism has been a serious issue in America and this imagery depicts the metaphor that the institution is sinking under their current system and values. America’s policing systems and government will have to think in depth about how they can work towards an equal society in America where all races are treated fairly.

It has also been argued Beyoncé should not have made a social and political statement at the Super Bowl. If the Super Bowl is an unfit place for social and political statements should Chris Martin not be chastised for having a Global Citizen logo on his shirt, a community who “learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges”? The simple answer, of course, is no. Pop culture has morphed and shifted over the years into the mainstream and stars now have a strong influence on the conversations the world is having. If a performance can provide entertainment and shed light on important topics, igniting conversations about how communities are struggling this can only be a win-win situation in my eyes.

It is interesting to see how quickly people got defensive when racial issues are brought up, a notion that Macklemore referenced in his recent release White Supremacy II. It is important to note; Black empowerment is not white defamation. Beyoncé is not attacking white people. As a white person, the video and lyrics did not offend me. Instead it triggered me to think about the racism that still exists and prompted me to look into and learn more about the significant examples Beyoncé used to amplify the message behind the song including the reference to The Black Panthers Party.

In my opinion Beyoncé has proven herself once again to be a great role model, not only black people, but for men and women of all races.

 

White Supremacy & Cultural Appropriation

This morning at work I was listening to the hot tracks on Apple Music when White Privilege II by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Jamila Woods) began to play. I was intrigued by the first verse and how Macklemore discusses whether it is his place to give his two cents or should he stand on the side and shut his mouth.

“It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism.”

However as the song continues there were some lyrics that stood out that dismissed this insecurity. The song encourages discussion to allow people to understand and to realise where they can help. I wasn’t sure whether to write this post at first but after listening to the song a few times I realise the best thing we can do is ignite discussion.

“But the one thing the American Dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with.”

It can be easy in this day and age to be ignorant and think racism is uncommon however we have to accept this isn’t true. Whilst direct racism may be less common, it still very much exists alongside subtler racism that restricts and discriminates.

I think understanding the media and how they create representations of people, race and culture is a very important step in progressing with this issue. It is no secret that there are issues throughout mainstream media where black men and women are frequently misrepresented; consistently demonstrated with the portrayal of Nicki Minaj. When Minaj made a valid comment about black women not being celebrated for earning the same achievements as white women she was quickly depicted by media outlets as the ‘angry black woman’ whilst Taylor Swift was seen as the innocent white girl. Whilst an image of an angry looking Minaj and a smiling Swift may seem minor, it subtly fuels the misconceptions of those who use these media outlets.

“White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho. White supremacy protects the privilege I hold.”

I believe children should be taught media literacy from a young age so they can digest and understand what they are being shown through the media and understand how damaging cultural appropriation can be. Cultural appropriation has been a widely discussed topic in recent years and whilst I think Macklemore’s mentions of Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea were valid, I don’t think he was doing it to cause offence. Throughout the song he admits his faults and understands he holds a responsibility because of his presence in the hip-hop industry. Artists need to consider the genre they borrow from and learn they cannot use it for the good whilst ignoring the bad.

Ultimately this song has encouraged people to discuss and share their experiences. It may be hard or awkward to discuss with family members or friends but know you can challenge their views and explain to them the damage cultural appropriation and turning a blind eye can cause. What do you think of the song and the topic as a whole?

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