I’m a blonde haired, blue eyed male, born and raised in America. At the age of 20, I moved abroad and spent 10 years living overseas. I left for a lot of reasons, and although escaping racism wasn’t a deciding factor, it was a fringe benefit. I liked the idea of living in a country where racism isn’t a major issue, and where nobody would blame me for hundreds of years of racial oppression.
10 years of traveling the world taught me my assumptions about racism were naive. It’s true that while living abroad I wasn’t subjected to any more white guilt for killing Indians and enslaving Africans, but I did have to deal with being stereotyped as a fat, loud, ignorant, arrogant, militant American who is personally responsible for the American government covertly destabilizing weak countries and invading large ones under false pretenses to steal their oil. I was never the victim of a hate crime, but I visited a few countries where I would have been robbed and/or killed just for being an American if I walked down the wrong side street at night. On the upside, some foreigners stereotyped me as a rich American who knows every Hollywood celebrity, neither of which is true, but the misconception made some people excited to meet me.
I was already aware that Americans’ reputation preceded me. So I expected to be the victim of a little discrimination from the most simple-minded foreigners. I didn’t expect to discover that every nationality I encountered was a little racist against someone. In places with the least diversity, the locals found groups within their own race to be prejudice against.
I never spent any time with hate groups. The acquaintances I made were regular, non-violent, decently educated middle-class folk. They all had friends from other races and cultures, and they all believed in equality, but in private, especially after a few drinks, they would quietly utter the same passive-aggressive stereotypes about whichever race they felt was committing the most crime and mooching off the taxpayers the worst.
Initially, this discovery depressed me, because it meant there isn’t a magical land of tolerance and equality to escape to. On the upside, it helped ease my white guilt a little, because looking back at race relations in America, I realized white Americans aren’t the exceptional villains my history books taught me we are. We’re just like everybody else.
You could say I was becoming more prejudice as my perception evolved since I’d come to stereotype the whole human race as racist. Being a vigilantly self-loathing white man, these secret thoughts weighed heavily on my soul until I’d visited a few more countries and taken a few more psychology classes. Specifically, it was Introduction To Child Psychology that brought me to my final way of thinking about racism.
The human brain, especially in children, is designed to mimic adults. It’s a quick, easy way to adapt to one’s environment without having to think deeply. In adulthood, we still use subconscious mental shortcuts to navigate our way through life. We can transcend these base instinctual habits to an extent, but the architecture of our brain will always be wired to use the least amount of thought to understand and react to the world around us.
Mimicking cultural norms and making generalizations is what we do. Punishing yourself for doing this is like beating yourself up for feeling horny. You’re designed to do that too, and you need to acknowledge that reality before you can find a healthy way to manage your libido. Sexual urges only become a problem when they control you and negatively impact your life or other people’s. Censoring your sexual thoughts and forcing other people to do the same will only accomplish suppressing an instinct that will never go away. You won’t defeat it. You’ll just lose control over it, shut down society’s dialogue on the subject and create a new reason for people to fight. The same is true for racism.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that racism is okay. Racism is illogical, and we should all be vigilant to curb it within ourselves, but the world can’t unify as long as we belligerently police each other for generalizations and microaggressions. Social justice warriors are just as guilty of using mental shortcuts to find a reason to hate as any hardcore racist who accosts other races in public. They’ve just found a way to hate that’s politically correct on the surface.
Society would achieve more unity if everyone was allowed to be 10% racist. If we acknowledge that dirty little urge and teach ourselves to keep it in check, we can understand, accept and love ourselves and others better. Then we can just get on with our lives.
The most important reason to be honest about one’s own micro-racism and to accept a certain level of overgeneralizing from others is because every group creates the stereotypes outsiders attach to them. It’s true that you can’t make blanket statements about any group, but if you spend enough time in any group, you’ll eventually see members doing the things they’re stereotyped for. Pretending those tendencies don’t exist forces you to warp your perception of reality to justify your preconceived conclusion, which is the definition of cognitive dissonance and is a form of insanity. When everyone is in denial of their own group’s dysfunctional behavior, and everyone militantly excuses and defends everyone else’s problems, nobody improves. Then everyone keeps repeating the same mistakes and teaching them to their children for the rest of the future.
Before you go shouting at other people to check themselves, you need to check your own culture, because you’re just as good and bad as everyone else, and you’re just as slightly racist. If you believe nobody else has the right to criticize your group, then you’re the only one who can improve the arbitrary segment of humanity you’ve decided to identify yourself as. If you won’t acknowledge your flaws, then your arrogance and close-mindedness are causing more harm to your group than any outsider.
Humanity wouldn’t be so fractured if people weren’t so proud of their race, nationality or culture. On a long enough timescale we all came from the same country, and we all go back to the dirt after we die. In the meantime, our biology is 99.9% identical. It’s just as ignorant and divisive for anyone to be proud of their race as it is for the KKK. Fanatical racial pride leads to fanatical racial prejudice. Accepting that everyone is family, and nobody is perfect leads to sanity and harmony.
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