From February 12, 2004: Solving racism-Part III

On the Johnsolvingracism

Solving Racism: Part III

Originally published in the Indiana Daily Student on February 12, 2004

This is the third in a three part series.

How can we take the next step toward true equality?

The next step begins with honesty. People have to feel comfortable expressing their racial and social feelings, because without honesty it is nearly impossible to change either the prejudice or the power, be it for individuals or institutions.

As we saw during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, a mass shift in individuals’ beliefs, backed up by an honest vocalization of those beliefs, can shift a country’s popular collective belief. Thus, influencing the power of the major institutions. To take the next step, we, the individuals with little institutional power, have to push the individuals with lots of institutional power to believe what we believe. The upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. Find a candidate who reflects your views on racial and social equality, and vote for him.

While individual and political honesty is a step toward racial and social equality, it will not do it alone. The person I met who was not afraid to say he dislikes gay people was being honest, and that is commendable. But even in his honesty, he is still a person who does not like gay people simply because they are gay.

Well, one might ask, what’s wrong with that? A lot of people are homophobic, and who am I to tell them they are wrong? After all, prejudices are beliefs, and it is ignorant for me to think my view of a belief as “wrong” is enough justification to change another man’s view of that belief as “right.” As someone who believes in racial, sexual and social equality, am I just as indoctrinated as those I disagree with? Despite my absolute conviction that no group is inherently evil, how could I prove it to those who whole-heartedly believe otherwise?

Let’s go back to the original equation: prejudice plus power equals racism. People say while anyone can be prejudiced, only people with power within the system can benefit from those prejudices. If people never used their power to oppress those whom they were prejudiced against, then we would not have a racism problem in America. We would have a disliking problem.

Thus, the key to solving racism is getting all Americans to uphold the American belief and ideal that all people are created equal and all people have the same basic human rights to happiness and opportunity.

Ask yourself: “Do I really believe every human deserves the same basic human rights?”

Hopefully, the answer is “yes.” Wanting to reverse social inequalities does not mean every white guy has to have a black friend or every heterosexual has to have a gay friend. Sure, it’d be nice if people were interested in each other, but this is America–you don’t have to like anyone you don’t want to like. Blatant disregard for people’s human rights, though, is one thing that cannot be tolerated.

Affirmative action, empowerment through education and the adjustment of media images are good solutions, but they will never be entirely effective until we’ve honestly answered the above question. It would be like arguing how to build a house without all agreeing on whether or not we want to build the house. That’s where the trouble lies.

Once we decide on what we want to accomplish, the rest is all about making a plan and following it. Prioritizing the nation’s budget with good education systems, eliminating poverty and strengthening the job market — these are just a few of the ways we can attack racism once we decide to change it.

After we make a decision, everything is easy.

The hard part is up to us.

Copyright 2004, jm silverstein



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