No Longer Oblivious

Before the lecture on racism, if you were to ask me what are the definitions of race, ethnicity and discrimination I would have grouped all three terms together and given them the same, basic definition. I thought I had a good understanding of the terms, but after the input it was clear to see that I was completely oblivious to what each individual term meant. Trying to write down each definition or explain them sounded like a simple task, however, I couldn’t begin to find the right words. I wrote:

  • Race – Judgement of heritage and/or skin colour
  • Ethnicity – Judgement of different culture/ society
  • Discrimination – Single someone out due to gender, age, ability etc.

For such complex terms, I wrote very little. I knew how horrible each term was and that many people in the world face a lot of problems and struggle daily because of them, however I couldn’t identify each concept accurately.

Throughout the lecture we were given multiple examples of racism from history, with each story being just as shocking as the last. Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi in 1955. During his visit Emmett went to a grocery shop and was accused of ‘flirting’ with the shop keeper’s wife, Carolyn Bryant, who was white. Emmett was brutally murdered a couple days later by Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam. The pair kidnapped Emmett, brutally beat him up, shot him in the head and then disposed of his body in the Tallahatchie River, where his body was later discovered. Emmett’s killers were taken to court by Emmett’s Uncle. However, their case was dismissed by the jury because they were white men. Although I had studied the Civil Rights movement previously in secondary school and had heard of the horrendous story of Emmett Till, I still found myself shivering in disgust at the gruesome pictures of his dead body. It felt like I was hearing the story for the first time again, I felt more sadness and anger towards the story especially when it was revealed to the class that Carolyn Bryant confessed in 2017 that she had indeed fabricated the story. This ultimately led to an innocent boy being murdered, therefore highlighting the shocking levels of racism that existed in America at that time and how many other’s like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King all had endure such horrible abuse towards them due to the colour of their skin.

However, it is still clear to see that these horrific problems still exist in society today. With recent events in Charlottesville, it is evident that racism still exists and affects many people in their day to day lives. With people like Donald Trump, who are in power, that don’t condemn this horrific behaviour and having the grand master of the KKK congratulate him on the way he handled the situation, highlights serious concerns that racism is still an ever-growing problem and will be seen as an ‘acceptable’ way to behave.

I watched a Ted talk by Clint Smith called ‘How to Raise a Black Son in America’ where the speaker talked about how he was brought up differently and followed other rules due to the colour of his skin because he couldn’t act like his white friends. I found this upsetting as I had no idea that people had to follow different rules to stay out of trouble because of the colour of their skin. That people with black skin couldn’t live their lives freely because of the judgement they would receive. It was heart breaking to hear that the speaker faced these problems at such a young age and to recognise at a young age that society will treat you differently due to the colour of your skin. Therefore, clearly highlighting that racism and prejudice still exist within society today.

Before the input, I had basic knowledge on the terms. I knew that racism was a terrible issue that society still faced today and was aware of the stories of Emmett Till and the Civil Rights movement in America. However, I was completely ignorant to the huge extent of racism that existed and still exists in the world today. I was completely oblivious to the fact that people had to change the way they live their lives and follow different rules because of their skin colour. I had no idea that they couldn’t live their lives freely without constant judgement from the rest of society. As a white person from a privileged background, I have never had to face such horrendous behaviour and now feel like my eyes have been opened much more. I now begin to recognise that racism and prejudice exists all around the world and not just in places like America. In addition to my basic knowledge, with the fantastic resources provided and the eye-opening lecture I now think about how different people go through different experiences in life due to racism and discrimination. Therefore, it is vital for anyone going into teaching to fully understand racism and discrimination to be able to educate the future generation about how terrible racism is and the horrific consequences racism has on people. To allow their pupils to understand that everyone should be treated equally, not just in the classroom but in the world, despite their race, religion and ethnicity.