Facing the facts of bigotry

Our society is saturated with the politics of prejudice. Claiming you are unaffected is unreasonable.

Kate Nelson

I’m racist. And so are you.

Being citizens of this world and, more pertinently, this country, we have long been bombarded with ideas of racism and its sibling -isms. Some of these seem too bizarre to adhere to, and others, once we were old enough to recognize their existence, seem quite natural.

Whether it bolsters or belittles others in your eyes, tying concepts about skin color, sexual orientation or type of genitalia to an individual is prejudice. And as much as we would like to deny it, we all have a set of our own preconceptions. Take a sigh of relief; this is normal.

The danger is not in having these ideas but rather in denying that your mind has ever entertained such concepts.

Racism exists in our world and in our thoughts, plain and simple. Rather than ignoring their presence, we should examine the role of these prejudices in our lives and how they affect us.

Though we look down on those who openly discriminate, their bigotry comes as no surprise. The most volatile kind of prejudice is that which goes unchecked and is suppressed to the extent that it erupts in the most inappropriate places, as if there were a suitable situation for bigotry.

Paris Hilton has recently settled in with Mel Gibson and Michael Richards in the ranks of celebrities who have shocked the world with words of intolerance. These people claim they aren’t bigots and harbor no ill-will toward others; yet, it comes rupturing out of them when the world, and they themselves, least expect it.

While their behavior is in no way justifiable, it should serve as a lesson to those of us whose lives are less monitored. Understanding the prejudices and biases you have allows for better supervision of such things.

Ignorance about the world around you is not an excuse for bigotry. Similarly, ignorance about your subconscious thoughts is not either.

Our society is saturated with the politics of prejudice. Claiming you are unaffected is unreasonable and irresponsible.

The far-fetched notion that racism can be erased is little more than a way to alleviate our guilt that such prejudice exists in our world, our culture, our lives. Rather than setting this lofty goal of eradicating discrimination, our energy should be expended on becoming more in tune with ourselves and our minds.

We cannot change the way we think to the extent that racism is abolished from our thoughts.

We can, however, acknowledge that those thoughts cross our minds and control the ways we act on them.

Our world, especially given the current sociohistorical context, is far from perfect. Claiming no racism exists in America is as illogical as suggesting there is no war in Iraq.

I encourage you to recognize that you are affected by racism, ageism and the like in your mind and in your interactions. Acknowledging the presence of such ideologies in our lives is a necessary first step toward any attempts at altering the influence they have in our society.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected]