Generally speaking, even though it’s 2017, it’s safe to say that the majority of us have come across race, racism and discrimination of some form in our daily lives. While we accept that the human brain needs to “categorise” and make associations in order for it to process certain information…we wanted to explore just what does the issue of “race” mean to us?
FUTURE SOCIOLOGIST PROSPECTIVE
From taking a Sociological class this semester on Race and Ethnicity in Canada, I wish that I could tell you that I have an A through Z explanation, and definition of what race is. My whole purpose through studying sociology is to breakdown why people think the way that they do, act and so forth. But I must say, this may be one of the hardest topics to try and wrap a set concept behind. My semester began with us reading a book, that we would discuss throughout the semester. Within the first few pages of the book it states that, “‘race’ meant lineage, or line of descent, and it was attributed to social groups within a common history” (Satzewich & Liodakis, p. 10). Race has never been about colour, and the differences that appear around us on a daily basis, it’s always been about where you’re from. I wish that it was an issue that could be solved in one day, but unfortunately we aren’t there yet, but I must have patience and faith that the day when we notice each others personality before making assumptions based on the colour of our skin, is just around the corner (fingers crossed!) But until then, here’s more about what we think about race.
I have been in a mixed race relationship for the past 11 years and although race has never been an issue for us in our coupling- it has been for others. I have been asked questions like, “have you ever dated your own race?”, “have are you only attracted to white guys?”, “is it different being with someone outside of your race?” and far more invasive questions. This wasn’t only the case for me; my partner has told me of occasions when discussing his personal life with co-workers or people who didn’t know me, that he found the “surprise” others exhibited when they realised that he wasn’t with someone of the same ethnicity. Whether their surprise is completely involuntary or not, these subtle microaggressions impact the way we interact, for my partner, he chooses to to be much more coy about who he discusses his personal life with as the reactions he’s received in the past made him uncomfortable. Personally, it’s only been recently as our daughter ages, becoming more self aware and beginning to notice her parents are not the same “colour”, that the conversation of race and just how I have interpreted in in my life- just how will I explain this to my daughter?Let’s face it, we are from the HUMAN race, but for a lot of people it goes deeper than that. For the moment, my daughter sees herself as “not in a colour” and actually believes that she will grow up and become darker like me or purple (it’s her favorite colour). For my part, I do not shy away from the conversation with her and encourage her to discuss cultures, colour and race. We have made conscious choices to buy her toys and books which reflect her reality, while trying to balance the representation she interacts with. That being said, I personally believe the biggest way we can “normalise” cultures and races is by having visual representation which reflect the realities of the world. We don’t all look the same, we don’t all follow one streamlined way of life; so we need to see more of that in the mainstream. In our household, it is a choice and I will always gravitate towards buying a book or toy which has a darker character at its centre, because I see the importance for my daughter to see herself or a part of her family reflected in books or other mediums. We encourage her to watch or play with toys for any gender. Myself and my family, enjoy the little moments when my daughter picks up a book and says, “Hey mommy look, Nana and aunty are in this book! Oh and that’s you there mommy”, and so forth. It always makes us smile to see the comparisons that she makes, and to know that even though she notices the differences, she sees it as a positive as it is a reflection of her family and her reality.
“RACISM ISN’T ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK, IT’S ABOUT HOW PEOPLE ASSIGN MEANING TO HOW YOU LOOK” ROBIN D.G KELLEY- HISTORIAN
LET’S GET PERSONAL!
The majority of my life, my colour never mattered to me, it never defined my choices and to be honest, until high school, I wasn’t aware that I was considered “other”. In high school, I didn’t stick to any particular grouping socially, I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t part of the “rejects” either, I sat comfortably in the middle of the social structure, with friends from both sides of the popularity hierarchy. Despite that, the one group, I always wanted acceptance from and never received was from my fellow “sisters” (I hate that term/definition, but i use it for a specific reason). One of the first incidents where I was made to feel like I was betraying my race was when I was told I was an “Oreo”. This is a reference to the fact that though I looked Black, I didn’t “act” it. The definition of what being Black is, was never clarified though, but it tinged at my heart. I was Black, that was the group I associated with, I ticked Black on forms…why didn’t they think I was Black? Was it the fact that I used full, correct sentences and didn’t say “yo” before each sentence? The fact that I didn’t walk like I had a leg injury? The fact that I despise rap music? Or was it merely because I didn’t fit into the box of which “being black” is defined, but it took me a long time to realise that the issue wasn’t with me, but with them.
We in no way expect a simple blog post to in no way “resolve” the very complex nature of racism as it is so deeply rooted in history; our goal is to shed light, put forward our experiences and the ways in which we make efforts to reduce our own prejudices. Ensuring there is open, honest and non-judgemental discourse is the only way we can educate the ignorant. What are some of your experiences or ways in which you deal with prejudices?
For now, that was a little RnR, from us to you. xxx
- Satzewich, V & Liodakis, N. (2017) “Race” and Ethnicity in Canada: A Critical Introduction. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.