The word itself has become synonymous with hate. So, what is Racism? The dictionary defines it as:
“Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race. Characteristics that distinguish individuals as inferior or superior to another race or races.”
Examples outside of race: chauvinism, bigotry, casteism.
Let’s take a moment to pause for 60 seconds, think about the definition and ask ourselves a few questions:
• Do I believe this concept or definition? Do I feel I exhibit some of these behaviors toward others? Do I feel like I believe my own race is superior to others? Do I believe in stereotypes of other races? Examples: African American’s are involved in higher rates of crime. Latinos are illegal immigrants. Asian Americans bring sex-trafficking to the U.S.
• Does racism still exist? Short answer, yes.
• Do we need to think about racism today? Short answer, yes.
• What can we do?
What can I do?
Let’s talk about what you can do on an individual level to combat racism. First of all, we need to have those tough, at times awkward, conversations about race and culture. Second, we need to learn how to identify our own racial bias and stereotypes that we may subscribe to. One of the first steps is to learn how to be comfortable in the discomfort. We might not be happy to find out that we have some implicit biases (that’s the “discomfort” part) but know we can do something about it! At first, it’s going to be uncomfortable to acknowledge we might have some “kinks” to work out. But, once we do, we’re that much closer to combating racism!
Racism is a learned behavior. Good news is: anything that can be taught can be unlearned by doing some self-work. But we must also recognize it is learned. To help end the cycle of racism we need to talk about it. However, the hardest part is being open to pinpointing some internal bias we might have and teaching others to do the same.
I challenge everyone who is reading this post to push yourself a little outside of your own comfort zone by striking up a conversation with someone of a different cultural background or identity than your own. Buy them a cup of coffee, hold a door open for them, greet them with a smile, or offer a kind word. Take small, baby steps to get outside of your box. Start finding ways to unlearn some of the stereotypes you’ve learned and to unlearn your own implicit bias. The most important step is to start.
How is STARS helping to eliminate racial discrimination?
We believe it starts with our youth.
To kick off International Day to End Racial Discrimination, Maplewood High and Jackson County high schools teamed up on March 14th to participate in Diversity Day.
What is Diversity Day? We gather 40 students from diverse backgrounds to talk with one another. The purpose is to not only create empathy getting to know people who are different from you but to help create cultural shifts in thinking and how to interact in cultural encounters. We talk about some uncomfortable, and sometimes awkward, topics such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The youth have an opportunity to learn and discuss what it means to have an implicit bias and what cultural competency looks like, as well as the stereotypes and perceptions that exist today. After learning about these topics, the youth have the opportunity to explore and dissect their own bias toward cultural stereotypes. We challenge each individual to get outside of their “box” that might be setting the foundation to continue the cycle of racism.
The students get a chance to experience what it might be like to walk in the footsteps of another person who is different from them. We hope by participating the youth will realize that it’s easy to put people in boxes; however, doing so limits their abilities and how they perceive the people around them.
Once we are able to remove the box, we are able to see that coming together is where we will all find true power.
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