This week at the Carrot Ranch, through her thought- and idea/l-provoking post, Charli Mills invites writers to respond to her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that tackles racism.
Charli describes racism as a “social earthquake that divides our common ground”. She says that “Our first step is to recognise our one race: human (with a) colourful kaleidoscope of culture.”
Charli suggests that writers “Think about common ground, about the things that rip us apart as humans. How we can recover our identities in a way that honors the identities of all individuals? What breaks the barrier of other-ness? Imagine a better tomorrow that doesn’t need expression in riots or taking sides on social media. As writers, think about genres, characters, tension and twists. We can rebuild.”
In my comment on Charli’s post I admitted that I am not qualified to write on this issue. I am fortunate to have never experienced the negativity of racism, the cloak that can at the same time judge one to be invisible and without value or singled out in the spotlight of blame. The responses of those who have, from the moment of their birth, needed to prove the value of their existence are often judged without understanding or sympathy by those who have experienced no such discrimination and whose attitudes are so ingrained as to go unnoticed.
Consider this exchange between work correspondents who decided to meet up at a conference. “How will we know each other?” she asked. He responded, “I’m black.” In recounting this episode to friends, she said, “I’ve never thought of myself as white.” Perhaps until all feel their skin colour is not an issue, any more than eye or hair colour, it will remain so.
I am not participating in the flash challenge this week, feeling unable to write something that would give sufficient recognition to the gravity of the divide that is racism. However I do not want my silence to be seen as lack of concern, or negation of the importance of the issue. Instead I will use my post to amplify the voices of others.
Dr Enyimba Maduka from the Department of Philosophy, University of Calabar in a paper entitled “Racism and Philosophy: An examination of Human and Kantian Racial Thoughts” considers the history of racism and the effects it has had on the mindsets of African peoples and cultures as well as Western philosophies. Maduk specifically targets and explores writings by Hume and Kant.
He says that racism can be understood “as a functional rationalization and symbol for oppression; (that it is) an attitude always directed at the vanquished not the powerful; it is the colonized who are the victims of racism and not the colonizers.”
He also says that “when human persons refuse to recognize the authentic humanity of their neighbours and fellow human beings, they cease or fail to be human persons themselves”. Strong words, definitely requiring reflection.
Listen to Clint Smith explain everyday limitations imposed by, and reminders of, skin colour; and ponder their humanity:
Or read the letter to his future son, expressing his hopes and dreams and fears. His message reiterates Charli’s call to rebuild.
“do not for one moment think you cannot change what exists. This world is a social construction; it can be reconstructed. This world was built; it can be rebuilt. Use everything that you accrue to reimagine the world.”
Or listen to James A. White Sr. describe the difficulties he had in renting a house, and consider how patient and resilient you may be in similar circumstances. Some of these situations I find difficult to imagine. White Sr. “aims to share his experiences of racism in order to stress the message that all races, genders and backgrounds must come together to challenge the status quo.”
Or perhaps Nina Jablonksi, an anthropologist, who says that skin colour is an illusion.
While many people deny it, or deny it affects them or their communities, racism is also an issue in Australia.
According to the All Together Now Erasing Racism project, acknowledgement of racism is essential to start preventing it in our communities.
We must all make an effort to ensure that racism stops with me.
I think education and understanding is a good place to start.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.