Racially Cognizant

Racially Cognizant

UntitledIn Steve Kolowich’s Article, “White Like You: The Challenge of Getting White Students to Grapple With Racial Identity,” it is stated that white liberals in my generation are the most difficult group to convince that there is inequality within our society. He asserts that those in this group are/were raised to believe that being “colorblind” was the correct path to take to be successful in eliminating the racist attitudes that had existed for decades. He accurately claims that in reality it is impossible to not see the color of someone’s skin. As a member of the group identified, I remember my dad telling me several times growing up, while sitting on an interview committee, that it did not matter if a potential employee was pink with purple polka dots as long as he or she could and would do the job the best of the interviewees. I did not learn to be “colorblind” by this, but it did affect how I see the world. Coming from a town with an incredibly uniform population, mostly white and mostly republican, I was shocked that color mattered as much as it did. I was raised with the understanding that race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and the like SHOULD NOT determine an individual’s level of success in society. I was never aware that unfortunately, these uncontrollable factors DO tend to determine success in the “real” world.

As a high school student in small town, Oklahoma, I did not know diversity. I graduated in a class of 132 students, the majority being white. (Just for the record, I wcomicas completely shocked that a cartoon like this existed.) The most I had to “work” towards inclusion was when cheering. My cheer squad consisted of a variety of individuals from different backgrounds. As is expected from the limited population of the school itself, the squad was mostly white. However, the group had a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. As a group of twenty, even one exclusive clique had the potential of dismantling the entire group. In general, we were accepting of all and got along with ease. To bridge the gaps, activities were done by the whole squad and paid for in advance to ensure all could participate. Additionally, each member was given money for food via fundraising projects to ensure all the members were treated as equally as possible. Unfortunately, in retrospect, I can see more division in my high school than I could then. I can see now that while I never witnessed or heard of race-related discrimination, unintentional grouping did occur. The two largest ethnic groups were Hispanics and Whites and students naturally gravitated to those like them. It was not till recently that I realized that it was not only race and ethnicity that separated these groups. Hispanics lived on “the other side of the tracks” (the older part of town), their parents made less money, and other socioeconomic differences. It was not until higher education and deeper understanding of society that I realized just how large of a gap existed. Looking back, I wish others and myself had done more to remedy the situation. However, I do wonder how responsive high school students would have been to forced integration and how administrators could have accomplished this.

As I have journeyed through college I have had more opportunity to be accepting of others. I have made friends with people based on their character, not that I ever made friends based on anything else. I have learned that diversity is interesting and adds something to any relationship. Knowing someone with a different lifestyle means learning for me. Different cultures, ethnicities, races, etc. can do nothing but teach us different ways of doing and approaching life. While it is important to teach those who were raised to be “colorblind” that color is something that matters and that you do not have to be racist to see race. It is equally important to teach acceptance and the idea that our way may not always be the correct way. Maybe if more people understood that other ways of life are not necessarily wrong then integration would be easier. I do think strides need to be made to lessen inequality whether it be between races, classes, genders, or the like. Teaching less judgment and fewer stereotypes would be a good start, but when something is so ingrained into society though, where do we even begin?quote

1 thought on “Racially Cognizant

  1. Ashley, I loved this! Hearing about your cheer squad and the ways in which you dealt with the financial aspects (fundraising, prepaying) were very admirable. I agree with you that race should be acknowledged and that you can and should acknowledge it without being cruel or discriminatory. I’m personally still trying wrestle with the idea of “colorblindness.” Obviously we can see racial differences, but in general, when I’m meeting new people, I immediately hone in on the person’s “aura,” which consists of their friendliness, their character, and the general way that I feel when I’m around them. Their race, if it even becomes an explicit thought in my mind, is typically in the background when I am assessing their personality, comparable to a tree swaying in the wind in my peripheral vision when I am focused on something else. Overall, it is so important to continue having conversations about race and other forms of discrimination so that history does not repeat itself. I most love your final question, “where do we even begin?” It’s difficult to say, but as long as we’re talking about it thoughtfully and respectfully and making efforts to educate ourselves and stop the problems, we’re starting in a constructive place.

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