In approaching this week’s topic of “Understanding ourselves – values as embodied and culturally specific”, my initial definitions and thoughts were as follows:
- Race – A group of humans who all share physical traits such as skin colour or facial characteristics.
- Ethnicity – A subdivision within race which centres around cultural traditions and practices.
- Prejudice – preconceived ideas which are judgments made without actual evidence.
- Discrimination – Unjust treatment of people groups where prejudicial opinions are formed based on race, age, sex etc. and this influences behaviour.
I’ve mainly associated racism with the past where events such as the slave trade, the holocaust and apartheid took place. After exploring some of the articles on Derek’s padlet and further reading, it has opened my eyes to seeing how racism and discrimination are more prevalent than ever in today’s society with social media being a major platform for hate.
The shocking Facebook post “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels” posted by Pamela Ramsey Taylor showed ignorance on many levels. Coming from a predominantly white community, it is likely that she has not encountered many black Americans and has grown up with strongly held views about their place in society. Her post was prejudiced and abusive showing that racism still permeates society today. Another woman joined in with her hateful comments leading to a huge viral petition which resulted in both women losing their jobs. Social media in the wrong hands can be a dangerous tool but this case study also explores its positive reach.
My understanding of racism was deepened by hearing Clint Smith describing his upbringing as a black child in America where his race dictated his actions. It was unacceptable for him to be joining in with other children who were playing with water guns in a dark parking lot because they were white. This is an example of institutional racism as others would automatically make assumptions on his behaviour on the basis of his colour. In hearing this story, my definition of race was stretched as I realised it is more than the appearance of a person. Race affects behaviour too as prejudicial ideas and society’s values can limit your opportunities and freedom.
Another example of institutional racism is that of Muslim women facing discrimination in British universities. Access to university is allegedly on the basis of merit but Britain has some way to go to becoming meritocratic. This article made me realise the definition of discrimination is not necessarily limited to unjust treatment of others according to their race and appearance but, on a deeper level, is connected to their core beliefs and religion (in other words an ethnic group). If anything, I believe religion can be a more isolating reason for discrimination. Religion plays a central part to the person’s life and can be hugely misinterpreted such as the Islamophobia that leads to a lack of social mobility where prejudiced opinions are formed. In some respect, this changes my original definition as people make assumptions that all Muslims are radicals and Islamophobia is a real issue. However, in this complex world, families of those affected by terrorist attacks (such as the recent attacks in Manchester) do have first-hand evidence giving weight to their fear. I am not saying that Islamophobia is acceptable at all but prejudice can stem from evidence in certain scenarios.
Having grown up with a father who is half Finnish and a mother who was raised in Africa and as a lover of foreign languages and cultures, I would say I am accepting of all people groups. Naturally we all form opinions of others but I am a strong believer in humans being treated equally no matter what colour their skin is or what religion they follow and I hope to take that into the classroom. In this digital age, I also hope that I will be able to draw awareness to the dangers and positive impacts of social media with its freedom to post any statement about any person of any race.
To conclude, here is a quote I came across from the iconic Rosa Parks: “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”