Internalized Racism

Hey guys, sorry it took longer to upload this one. I wanted to make sure I came with voices of the people I’m talking about. Today we’re going to get uncomfortable and learn why that’s okay!

In college, I took a mandatory credit called ‘Culture in the Workplace’. Not once did we speak about the workplace but I learned more here than any other class. This class was emotionally exhausting because it required I check my privilege and ego at the door. It made me sit with uncomfortable topics and realizations about myself. When I went into this course I had two assumptions 1. I was a good ally to the POC community (People/Person Of Color) and 2. I had no internalized racism. In my mind, these two things could not exist without each other. The first thing we learned in that course is that everyone has internalized racism. The definition of internalized is “part of one's nature by learning or unconscious assimilation”1. I do want to make it clear that internalized racism isn’t something we have done purposefully, it’s perpetuated within us by the society we’ve grown up in. However, once you are made aware of this it’s your responsibility to deconstruct it within yourself. Coming to the conclusion that you have internalized racism isn’t comfortable. It shouldn’t be, it directly contradicts how you see yourself. A lot of people get stuck here, we want to believe that we always have others best interest at heart but as someone on the outside, we can’t know the real answer. To even have a chance at knowing, we have to listen to each other. We have to listen to what their saying is an issue. Even if we don’t face that issue or understand why it’s an issue, we need to listen and try to see it from their side. They are telling us this is an issue, so it’s an issue. If I said I have a migraine you wouldn’t say “that’s not a thing” or “migraines aren’t a real issue”. So why, if not racism, do people discount what POC have to say?

Here are some examples of internalized racism. I have heard someone say every single one of these.

“I do not see color” When you say things like this it erases the culture and experiences of everyone. Like it or not color plays a large role in our society, both in the past and present. Kiara Goodwin states “’I don’t see color’ can feel like ‘I’m choosing to ignore this part of you because it makes me more comfortable.’ It sounds like ‘I don’t see you,’ and it feels like a casual dismissal.” I am including a link to Kiara’s blog post below, it is beautifully written and explains everything about this statement. We need to accept and embrace the world’s cultures and colors. There is so much beauty in our diversity. “Refusing to see color is disregarding the distinct beauty that my blackness brings to the table”.

 “You are the whitest black person”. That’s not a compliment, it’s an insult. Reginald Parson talks about his experience stating the term “is a way of saying that any African-American that behaves, talks or dresses, associates with or the music they listen to opposite of the “norm” African-Americans are associated with acting “white”. While the phrase is probably not said with malice, it still attempts to distance someone from their culture and melt them into being white. I have linked his article below if you’d like to read his full experience.

If someone is telling you their experience you cannot get defensive, even if you don’t understand. Getting angry or arguing makes the situation worse. We’re not always going to understand someone else’s experience. It’s our job to understand to the best of our ability, try not to make other people feel their experiences don’t matter, and not continue the cycle.

References

1.       https://www.dictionary.com/browse/internalize

2.      Kiara Goodwin. 1 June 2020. What I hear when someone says “I don’t see color”. TheEverygirl.com. Accessed 27 July 2021 https://theeverygirl.com/i-dont-see-color/

3.      Reginald Parson. 6 June 2015. ‘Whitest Black Person’ almost as bad as ‘N’ word. Oshkosh Northwestern University. Accessed 27 July 2021 https://amp-thenorthwestern-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/amp.thenorthwestern.com/amp/28560053?amp_gsa=1&amp_js_v=a6&usqp=mq331AQKKAFQArABIIACAw%3D%3D#amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&aoh=16276670402360&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenorthwestern.com%2Fstory%2Fopinion%2F2015%2F06%2F06%2Fwhitest-black-person-almost-bad-word%2F28560053%2F

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