Roots and Values Essay (By Ebony Foreman)

Racism isn’t born, it’s taught!

Ebony’s Note 2.0: This time I went back and thought about what I was actually trying to say in my essay about racism. In my first essay the title was “Racism: Taught and Learned,” and while that was a straight forward title, this new one conveys a similar message, but in a more direct way.

Growing up in a biracial household my parents always preached the importance of maintaining an open-mind. When I was younger I didn’t really understand what it meant to be considered “different” or an “other”, and I suppose for most children that’s considered normal unless they’re informed otherwise, and this unfortunate enlightening moment happened to me in middle school. For me, I never paid much attention to the pigmentation of my skin, the sharper more angled features of my face, or even my thick inky black wavy hair. To me, these features were all just genetic attributes, that by luck of the draw, I happened to be blessed with; however, one day a classmate dubbed me a “half-breed” and another asked me if I was American. I started to question what it meant to be biracial and considered an ethnic “other” in school.

After that harshly informal education of the realities of being ethnically different, I felt suddenly alienated and somewhat inferior and went home, confused, upset and in need for some answers. After a very long, and rather loud conversation with my middle school principal, my parents explained to me that sometimes lack of education can breed ignorance. I’ve found that stereotypes, racism, racial slurs, and prejudices all stem from the same place: an unwillingness to have an open-mind about what is considered foreign. I will argue that a lack of education, a reluctance to keep an open-mind, and how social interactions play a part in how we perceive the world around us.

Ebony’s Notes 2.0: I reworked a good portion of this paragraph, I did so by breaking up a large portion of the previous paragraph and making it into an introductory paragraph and another that drove my thesis home.

For me comprehending this idea that stereotypes and racism were taught and learned socially accepted behaviors began initially at home. Later on I found myself grateful that my parents were willing to share their experiences with racism with me instead of me growing into adulthood blind-sided by the reality of it all. We, as humans, tend to raise children in a way that is similar to that of the generation before us, and that is a pretty consistent cycle. As I mentioned before I was raised to be accepting to people from all different walks of life, and to value their intelligence and personality more than their appearance; however, from middle school clear through high school these teachings that my parents instilled in me weren’t shared universally. This issue was always tricky for me, and I could never understand why people of all ethnic backgrounds weren’t conscious of the harsh realities that we all impart on others who are different from themselves. My great-grandmother on my mother’s side was Native American, she married an African-American man and had biracial children one of which was my grandfather; he later met my grandmother, who was a white woman, and they also had biracial children, and so to me I never could comprehend the importance placed on the value of categorizing people by the color of their skin.

Essentially leaving home and entering the real world was like being slapped across the face by not one but two hands. In middle school I saw kids bully because they were Mexican and English was their second language, were African-American with curly or “kinky” hair and dubbed it as nappy, and were Muslims who wore what the bullies called “stupid” or “retarded” clothes because they weren’t completely Americanized. It was in middle school that I felt completely and utterly alone, from sixth through eighth grade I hardly had any friends especially white friends, was never invited to spend the night at anyone’s house or to their birthday parties, and at the time it appeared to be because I was biracial and didn’t fit into some perfectly structured category of either African-American, White, or Other. These were clear examples of ignorance: These children, that were my classmates, were openly ( and unconsciously) committing what is considered legally as hate crimes, and has been against the law in this country since the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was enacted. When I think back to it now and how upset I was with my classmates I realize that while they did commit what is considered to be racially motivated hate crimes, did they fully comprehend that they were bullying and discriminating against me specifically because of those traits?

Ebony’s Notes 2.0: Separating that large paragraph did help the flow of the essay as well as the overall pacing of the story that I’ve weaved in with my theme.

I discovered much later that unless children possessed parents who openly and willingly instilled the values of acceptance, devalued the system of categorizing people based on race or ethnic attributes, and asked them to respect others, then children lack a parental teacher and seek out  guidance for social cues and behavior from either society or their peers. People aren’t born with the ideas of stereotypes, racial slurs, and prejudices bred into them, it is in fact a practiced behavior or thought process that begins from childhood and can lead into adulthood and most of the time people are very unaware of their discriminator behavior simply because most people, once they understand what racism is, don’t view themselves as racists. Could this possibly be the reason why discrimination is so heavily rooted in various cultures? We, as a species, allow the most impressionable and vulnerable years of human existence to be shaped by personal frustrations or historical persecutions and exploitations so to continue the existence of close-mindedness, ignorance, and racial discrimination. I think that when people become comfortable enough in their own skin and don’t allow insecurities to rule their way of thinking then maybe just maybe we can truly began to correct whatever wrongs our ancestors committed and work towards eradicating both racial discrimination and prejudices.

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