November 24, 2017

The role of ignorance in racism

By Max Tracey '19, News Editor

 

The incident that took place this summer reminded us all that racism is not a thing of the past.  It proved that even in a community like Wellesley, where we pride ourselves in being welcoming and inclusive, we have substantial progress to make.

An “evolved” way of expressing prejudices is by saying them in subtle, private ways, and these incidents of microaggressions are not isolated.  Racist actions can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, when expressed subtly.

When someone in Wellesley typically says a racist comment, they usually follow it by saying that it was just a joke, and that they did not truly mean the harm it brings to people.  However, what may be comedy for some can be pain and poison to those it oppresses.

Whether the horrible things the juniors said in the online chat about their friend’s family this summer was meant for laughs or not, they were of the poorest taste and some of the most vulgar things I have ever heard from a human being.

I see these hateful actions and words, and I struggle to understand how someone develops such hatred and bigotry.  It starts with adult influences, like parents and public figures, and it needs to stop there.

I truly believe a human was not born with the intent to hate certain types of people.  They hear such nasty comments and slurs from their parents and other adults, and they internalize it.  They make those words and feelings part of their behavior,

I believe people feel like they can verbally oppress minorities because minorities seem so distant to them when living in a town lacking diversity.  Wellesley’s demographics show the difficulty to find that diversity, as about 85% of our population is white.

Someone in Wellesley will have more difficulty understanding the feelings and struggles of a minority when there are fewer non-whites to interact with on a consistent basis.  A white person’s ignorance might drive them to express any prejudices they have heard.

This ignorance is the basis of most racist actions and comments in Wellesley.  We, as members in this community, and in this country, need to stand together.  We must learn more about each other’s backgrounds, upbringings, and our cultural beliefs to bury our ignorances far away.

If we realize the harm we do by verbally diminishing a race, culture, or belief, we will be less inclined to actually say that horrible thing.  By continuing to celebrate diversity  in Wellesley and the world, and by being open-minded to one another, no matter how we look or act, we can put an end to hatred and racism.

We have made much progress in the advancement of equality for minorities over the past century.  We must continue to celebrate that progress.  At the same time, though, with the recent shootings of minorities, and the stereotypes that still control society, there is a desperate need for more progress.

 

And that progress starts by ending our ignorance.

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