Prevalent prejudice: Racism should be taken more seriously

By Jillian Anderson, Reporter

One time, I was talking to a friend who told me he sometimes forgets I’m black. I said thank you, but I had a nagging feeling in my stomach. “How could you forget I’m black?” Never once have I referred to this friend as a racist person, but I couldn’t deny the sting of being stripped of my identity.

Race in America is an issue, whether you think it is or not. Much of the spotlight of the American race issue is on the interactions of African-Americans and Caucasians. I shouldn’t have to recount the deadly and sickening history of slavery and intense racial discrimination of the country, nor do I want to. It’s common knowledge there aren’t too many good feelings between the two groups.

However, most conversations on race tend to be echo chambers of empty sentiments, charged remarks and fevered rantings. These conversations are barely communication. Asking whether or not if something is racist is starting down the wrong path. The assumption stands that racism is something black and white. You either are racist or aren’t. It’s the most damning and self-serving statement.

It’s common for humans to think negatively about certain people or groups. Maybe it’s hipsters. People who like alt-rock aren’t favored. Those negative thoughts lead to de-humanization. Negative thoughts and de-humanization lead to prejudice and stereotypes. Both strip a person of their humanity. It’s a shade of gray that’s innocuous and comes as a facet of being human. That is the beginning of racism.

How we talk about racism and racists has colored perceptions of the concept. “Racist” and “racism” are such charged terms that have lost their meaning. They’ve become caricatures, the butt of jokes or the boogeyman in every form of media, a foreign concept that no one can identify with, and thus can’t find in himself or herself.  When you make a monster, you dehumanize it. You take out the shades of gray that lead to its creation.

What did my friend mean when he said he forgot I was black? Who’s to say, but it sounded like I earned my humanity, my right to exist. No one should have to earn his or her humanity.

He’s not a monster, but he’s not perfect. Many people’s ideas on other races aren’t informed by actual contact with a person but by media, personal stories and old notions. That’s the nature of the beast, but it’s changeable. We live in the age of information. There is light showing society its dark corners. Now it’s a choice. It’s not black and white. You can learn about anyone, talk to anyone.

Having prejudice doesn’t make you a monster; holding onto it does.

Jillian Anderson is senior journalism major from Houston. She is a reporter for the Lariat.