Community should actively combat dismissive racism

March 21, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju

There is a growing divide in the country. On one side are those who are passionate about the issue of racism and are willing to change it; on the other are those who simply wish to stand back and let whatever happens happen.

 

Would we stand idly by if a black man was shot by a white police officer in front of us? Of course not, but it seems that is exactly what we are doing now.

There is a growing divide in the country. On one side are those who are passionate about the issue of racism and are willing to change it; on the other are those who simply wish to stand back and let whatever happens happen.

Unfortunately, the careless bystander attitude of the latter group is not much better than one that is blatantly racist. Despite our lofty claims that we hope to see a world of equality, what many of us actually exhibit is “dismissive racism” — that is, a passive reaction to racist happenings and denial that certain events are race-driven.

For instance, there is rarely discussion in our community of events surrounding the race relations in America, such as the shooting of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse, the shooting of Michael Brown or the recent neglect of an overwhelmingly black community by a white governor in Flint, Mich.

Similarly, police brutality is not much of a topic of discussion in the classroom until junior year, when students in English 11 Honors have options to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World And Me,” Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” or Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” Coates’ novel confronts the vulnerability of blacks to the establishment and the recent deaths of blacks like Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers.

“Beloved” examines post-Civil War America and the psychological and physical impact slavery had on its victims and their descendants. “Kindred” transports a black woman from the 1970s to the antebellum South and reveals the eerie similarities between the modern times and the time of slavery. These works should be introduced earlier in the English curriculum starting freshman year, as they are a good start to opening students’ eyes to the reality of systemic racism in America.

Just because the majority of us here in Saratoga are not black, Hispanic or Muslim does not mean we are excused from paying attention to the obstruction of equality the corrupt justice system and racist comments of presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump, pose.

We must point out the flaws of his arguments and speak out about our disagreement. If we choose to care only about those issues that directly affect us and leave those that do not for others to decide on, then how can we expect others to care about problems that affect us when the tables turn?

Asian Americans are as vulnerable to racism as blacks are now. In fact, Chris Rock’s distasteful joke about child labor and the three Asian children playing the part of accountants on stage at the Oscars demonstrates that even the “model minority” is not exempt from racism today.

One simply needs to consider the quote from Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller, who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, to see this point: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Far too often, the only mention of race outside the classroom is in reference to college admissions and affirmative action, or stereotypes: the typical “Asian-American math nerd.” That culture of insulation needs to change, and involvement in political activist clubs, such as

Democracy Matters Club, or the voting process are great starting points to increase awareness and discussion. Voters and participants in these clubs would be better informed as to candidates’ stances on important race-related issues, such as police brutality and immigration.

Those of us who are Asian Americans cannot ignore what is going on around us, all the while being glad the events have not yet impacted us. We have to wake up, pay attention to the news and condemn those acts of evil before it is too late, because though they may not seem to matter now, they will very soon.