Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am White, We Are Black - Part 5: Individuality and Racial Stereotypes

An Introduction from Keith

In part 3 of this blog series, I reflected a bit on one way that white people can be racist without realizing it: Stereotypes. Here, Kevin shares his perspective on being on the receiving end of these stereotypes and generalizations.

Generalizations and Individuality

The generalization of ethnicities is a very inaccurate way of viewing a group of individuals; whether it is concerning their strengths or weaknesses, stereotyping is never a good idea. As I’ve grown, one important aspect of how I view others is through the eye of individuality. I celebrate individuality because it allows the beauty of the person, the garments they wear, gifts, and the skill set in a person to shine and not be compared to anyone else. Generalizing a group of people simply because a number of persons in that group committed an act that was unacceptable or unlawful sets a tone or standard of opinion that can quickly become harmful. It can create an oppressive act to maintain the group of people simply from the unwise choice of what only a small percent of them did.

POC (People of color) in America have more than often been categorized as the same: lazy, uneducated, poor, fatherless, violent, or doesn’t respect authority. These false perceptions excepted as reality are most times never seen with the person’s own eyes or experienced themselves, but from the comfort of their home through local/world news and stereotypical roles black people play in movies (the killer, robber, fatherless child, and single mother on welfare living in the inner-city). From the roles of these fictional characters, fears are created and carried throughout the lives of those that now only see people of color as possible robbers and killers. Do POC commit crimes? Yes! But, so do people from all ethnicities.

Throughout the history of America, POC have had to fight together to be free from slavery, treated as equals, and fight for justice.  When one black or brown person breaks the law, it’s like we all did it in the eyes of others. You can sit in any black home and feel the tension when watching the news, waiting on the name or mug shot of the person that committed the crime as we hope and pray that they weren’t black. We don’t want anything else to add to the false perception that black people are dangerous or a thief.

Depending on where you shop, you may be followed by employees no matter what color you are. However, being a black man, I’ve experience racial profiling more times than I can count. It got to the point that when I would go shopping with my (white) best friend, I wouldn’t want to go into this particular jewelry store he shops at because I already knew I was going to be followed… again! Think about it. They didn’t know me. They didn’t know if I were poor or rich, but they saw the color of my skin and within seconds made a conscience or subconscious decision to see me as a potential thief.

In this 2009 movie, stereotypes about
African Americans and gang activity
cost one undercover police officer
his life.
I don’t want to be compared to the black man that robbed you, or that robbed the person in the movie you watched the night before seeing me. Just like any white person wouldn’t want to be seen as a person that will go shoot up a movie theater or an elementary school full of children, I want the same level of respect. However, the difference between the two is that I will be compared to the scary black man from the news that did a drive-by, but the white man standing next to me won’t be seen as another Dylann Roof. White people are seen more as individuals. Actually, they demand to be seen as individuals and their demand is usually complied with. POC have to fight for that same level of decency.

I, too, have had to learn when voicing my comments concerning racism not to just say “white people”, it gives the notion that I’m talking about all white people, but instead when discussing this serious issue to clarify who I’m talking about, “racist white people”. Being more specific separates them from those with greater values and a love for ALL people. Grouping all white people together is just as wrong when it’s done to POC.

So generalizing any group of people from race, class, skill trait, or country is a close-minded way of viewing others and the possibility of what they as individuals can offer to the world. We all have something that is a favorite of ours: a type of food, television program, author, or musical artist.

Biologically we all have different finger prints and cresses in our hands that can only identify us as an individual. We all have different interests, morals, and spiritual beliefs, and even if we do share some of those aspects of beliefs, we may go about them differently.  There are so many things that separate us from ever being exactly the same.  That is why I believe it is unfair and unfortunate for humanity to ever group a class or race. We defeat ourselves in so many ways by not celebrating and embracing the individuality of others.

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