Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Racism/Ethnocentrism

As I mentioned I am a Southerner and as such have witnessed racism. I've seen how white people treat black people and the other way around. Most of it is mistrust and ignorance. I could tell you stories so I'll start with just one.

Back in college, I had a roommate who grew up in a distrustful environment. Her father hated black people and referred to them as "n***ers". She grew up in the country so to speak. Also she went to a private school where as she explained they had maybe one black person who was an exchange student from Africa. On Martin Luther King Day or as she also said Robert E. Lee's Birthday (which is also part of the holiday and incidentally the only way the south allowed MLK Day to pass as a holiday), she had a teacher who would talk "like a n***er" throughout the entire day to the class. Needless to say my roommate did not grow up in a culturally diverse environment nor an accepting environment.

I, on the other hand, grew up differently. Even though we were born in the same state, my life was different from my roommate's. My mother grew up in a semi-racist household, but she was emphatically against raising her own children that way. When the census was held, they sent a form to my house asking the usual questions including race. As my mother put it, there is one black person, one white, one hispanic, and one asian person living in our household. Obviously my family is not that diverse but my mother made it a point not to disclose race or make race an issue. I grew up in the subburbs where people had more wealth and I went to a public school. I had several friends from outside my own race.

Anyway now that you know the background, the story is much shorter. So one evening my roommate and some friends of ours were out and about somewhere. I really don't remember where but it doesn't matter. We were all talking about our futures: how many kids we wanted, what we were going to do when we graduated, etc. For some reason when we were talking about our children, the topic of baby dolls came up. I mentioned that if I had a daughter I would buy her a variety of dolls from different races/ethnicities. I said that I wanted my daughter to grow up loving people of different skin colors. My roommate suddenly piped up. She said, "Why would you do something like that? Don't you want your daughter to have a baby doll that looks like the babies she will have in the future?" To me this implied don't you want your daughter to have children in her ethnic group. From here I was stunned and I think that I said something about it not mattering to me if she did marry someone outside her ethnicity and having babies of different colors. The conversation became heated and I think I just kept definding my ideas and ignoring her ignorance.

Since all these stories have happened in my life, I have become a sensitive person to race and ethnicity. I have been diligently trying to combat it and to change people's views. My own views have changed as well. I've had many roommates from different cultures and countries. I've dated outside my race. This had led me to experience a wealth of information about the world as other people see it, and it has given me a unique look at my own culture. I am truly thankful that God has given me the opportunity to have these experiences in my own life.

So here are some questions for you to ponder as well: How have you experienced racism?, What kind of exposure have you had to other cultures?, What is your own culture or race?, What do you like about your culture and ethnicity?, What parts do you find bad about your culture and ethnicity?, What exposure will/do you give your children to other cultures?, and finally Can you guess what my race is?, and Does it really matter?

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!