“Race is like weather, we only talk about it when it is extreme”, Touré wrote in his opinion piece for the New York Times last November.
In the past few months, this extreme weather becomes more prominent. Below are just a few in a long list of racial-based biased incidents that happened since the beginning of this year.
– Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi American stay-at-home mother, who lived with her family of five children in the suburb of San Diego, was found dead by her daughter in the living room of their rented house. There was also a note left at the scene telling the family to “go back to your country, you terrorist.”
– The death of Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot dead by George Zimmerman, neighborhood watch guard of a gated community after visiting his father in a gated community in Florida. Police initially did not arrest Zimmerman, but after high public pressure, the case is being tried in court. Martin’s death raised the question on racial profiling and biased treatment of authority on the victim. Please follow the case for more information.
– Teddy Molina of Corpus Christi, Texas , who committed suicide after years of enduring bully at school. He was openly bullied for being a mixed race student.
The list goes on.
In Philadelphia, the series of attacks on Asian Immigrant students at South Philadelphia high school on December 3rd 2009 shed light to the issue of racial biased violence, in school and society at large to local and national attention.
These cases, and countless other like them, set themselves apart because of the racial biased-based motivation that is involved.
Molina was bullied because he was mixed race. Alawadi and her family was targeted because of they were “perceived” as “terrorist” in the post 9/11 America. Martin, an African American youth, was suspected by Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community. Police did not make initial arrest for Zimmerman show a level of indifference for the death of an African American youth.
The series of attacks on December 3rd 2009 at South Philadelphia high school targeted on the Asian Immigrant population. The School District of Philadelphia was proven by the Department of Justice to be “deliberately indifferent” to the safety of these students.
That’s how it should feel: uncomfortable and heartbreaking, and frustrating.
Racial diversity…what a great phenomenon! If only we can understand how to live with it.
Given the history of racism in which this country was built upon, from slavery to Chinese Exclusion Act to segregation to racial profiling in post 9/11 era, one obvious mistake is to pretend that race does not exist. Race is entrenched deeply in our society that we cannot escape from. Imagine we are fish, and race has dissolved into the water.
So…what do we do?
– Face it! It is there. Turn a blind eye or be a bystander will not help. Not addressing the problem will only send the message that we are alright with it, and therefore we unintentionally become a supporter of the problem. Imagine when you see a fire, watching it burn will only mean you allow it to continue. So talk about it!
– Don’t ignore the tensions and dynamic that come with that diversity. Those tensions and dynamic are the result of our nation’s history, not a momentary issue. To heal from generations-length racism would require a process of equal or longer period of time. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all of us, not just the ones who are negatively affected.
– Understand that the racism is not only interpersonal. It is also institutional that rooted into the very structure of the way things work in the very society we live. We usually want to just capture the perpetrator, which will never solve the problem. Again, think about water: we can take out as many bad fish as we could. But until we solve the water issue, the generations of fish to come will always have bad fishes.
– Understand also that institutional racism is different from personal prejudice. In short, just because we are not participating in racism does not mean that it does not exist at a larger level.
– Racism is more importantly internalized into our conscience, of how we interpret the world, and of how we see ourselves.
– Shift the focus from intent to impact. Sometimes, we unconsciously participate in racism, however it hurts whether we intended it or not. So be thoughtful and purposeful of our actions would be a tremendous shift.
This process will inevitably be uncomfortable, as all process of change will be. But we believe it will be worth it.