Sunday, May 09, 2010

Unrecognized Racism

The truest kind of racism, and probably the most harmful, is the kind that does not recognize itself. It's one thing to be deliberately malicious and hateful, but it's entirely different to say and believe hateful things as though they're just "reality."

Today I went to Traffic School (let's not get into that... yes, I got a speeding ticket). I was the fifth member of a five member class (filled with delightful people, I might add). Since we had eight hours together, and in such a small setting, we all grew comfortable with one another quite quickly. At one point, during conversation which revolved around traffic laws and policy discrepancies, one of the ladies in the class looked around at us and said, "well, there aren't any Mexicans in here so I'll say this..." and she began to draw a parallel connection between some traffic policy and Mexican immigration, referring to undocumented Mexican immigrants as "illegals" (a term which has taken on such derogatory meaning for me that I can barely stand to hear it). It's funny the way she seemed to think that she was simply "stating the facts" when, in fact, the discriminatory nature of her comments lead her far astray from mere "fact." The racism she was showing toward Mexicans was reminiscent (or I imagine it would have been, had I been there) of the kind of unrecognized racism which existed, even in U.S. policy, toward folks before the Civil Rights Movement.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the Civil Rights Movement wasn't that it ended racism (and it has not) but that it opened our eyes to recognize it. Perhaps another movement of civil rights is due; a movement which will open our eyes to the hearts and lives of men and women who love and laugh as all people do--folks whom we may, if we do not know or see them, be content in referring to as "illegals."

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