Is Racism Taught Through Love
Wetbacks was the name used by my favorite uncle to describe Mexicans regardless of their immigration status.
Racism is a learned way of thinking and is not endemic to the culture or a person. It is taught to us by those we love and trust to know better. If, however, no one explains racism and the effects it has on both those who remain its target and those that are wielding this oppressive tool things can get very confusing.
I am reminded of a brilliant special (Freedom Riders) I saw on PBS regarding the bus riders determined to break legally sanctioned racism by riding public buses together through the South.
Several times during the course of this incredible film there were closeups of young innocent white faces spewing aggressive and upsetting epithets and then justifying this behavior. Witnessing this most troubling and disturbing display of hatred left me clear about racism in a different way and allowed me to understand what racism is and is not.
Many of us are taught to believe that white folks enjoy being racist.
That it is an integral part of white culture with the only option being : avoid “whitey” in any and all possible situations. Once, I offered to house my nephew for the Summer with myself and my white partner only to be told by an adult,” No thanks, he likes to stick with his own.” I was beyond shocked and tried to figure out where did this thinking come from because this individual was only a year younger than me.
Witnessing the unconscionable ignorance within my own family and the young white shrieking faces in the movie, the roots of racism became obvious to me.
While this fear based identity and familially sanctioned bigotry kept many of us alive, it did very little to provide spaces for individuals to seek out and experience healthy, productive and respectful relationships.