Racism is not a personal problem: it is a systemic one
The biggest challenge for many people when it comes to talking about racism, is realising that it is not a personal problem. For racism to become a huge element of the social, political and professional fabric of the United States and a large part of the Western World, there are not “mean” individuals, but an entire system that has been built up over centuries. So talking about racism on a personal level, altering the relationship between single individuals and people of colour is not going to help to bring about an effective change. In order for change to happen, we need to recognise the methods and ways through which discrimination seeps, every day, into every area of our lives, and we need to take that system apart.
The first step towards doing this, both on the part of white and black people, is to open our eyes to those subjects which are actually linked to race. A subject or a problem is linked to race simply if:
- The person who is being discriminated against sees it as a problem linked to race.
- It has a disproportionate effect on the lives of people of colour.
- It is part of a pattern that has a disproportionate or otherwise different influence on the lives of non-whites.
What does all this mean? That if a black man is stopped on the street by the police, you cannot assess that situation without considering the act of stopping him as part of a widely recognised pattern according to which being stopped by the police has a disproportionate influence on the lives of people of colour compared to that of white people.
To dismantle racism one must first of all recognise its systemic nature. When black men are said to be lazier, it doesn't just affect the personal feelings of those people wrongfully accused of a flaw they don't possess. More than anything else, this accusation affects the general misconception that all black men are lazy, which in turn makes it harder for them to be admitted into a particular school, called for a job interview, hired, and promoted. So every time a racist observation is made, one should set all emotion aside and clearly analyse what systemic problems feed, and are fuelled by, those kinds of observations.
The key ideas of "So You Want to Talk about Race"
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