“Racism is Not Real”
There are two instances in my life that I can distinctly recall being told that racism no longer exists. Both instances were told by older white males, and during both conversations they expressed the fact that people of color were taking away opportunities for themselves and their families. While one’s son wasn’t getting a job because he was white, the other’s wife wasn’t receiving an award for the fact that someone else of color applied for it. Even if, perhaps, those of color were chosen over white individuals, isn’t that enough of a sign proving that racism is real? That there are some trying to erase racism by granting more money or opportunities for those of color--making those of color a token?
When I was in high school, a friend of mine told me that she “just doesn’t think [she] could ever date a brown person, you know? No offense.” A week later, someone made a list of the top 100 girls in my graduating class, and while it affected the esteem of many teenagers, I couldn’t help notice that there was not a single person of color on the list. When I was in college, a relationship I had with a boy ended because he was too embarrassed to be with a brown girl. When I was working with preschoolers, a 4 year old black girl told me she wasn’t pretty. And when I asked why she thought this, she informed me because her skin was too dark. One summer in college, my friend got pulled over for being Hispanic. The following fall semester I finally read a book that was written by a female Indian-- Jahpma Lahiri. While traveling abroad, a girl in my class would walk faster when being passed by black men, and at the age 20 I finally learned to love the color of my skin.
Racism is real.
And it is not real because a white man is upset at his limited opportunity. It is real because every single person of color at some point in their life has questioned their beauty and their worth. So has every person with a disability and every person of the LGBTQ+ community. Time and time again in school we learn that black people were slaves and then there was Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King who made a difference. We do not learn about the Disabilities Rights Movement in the 1960's, we do not learn about successful writers of color, or scientists, or mathematicians. We learn about Ernest Hemingway (white) and Scott Fitzgerald (white). We learn about John Locke and Christopher Columbus (both white). Throughout our youth we learn the successes of white individuals and rarely of minorities. We do not learn that police were originally established to lock away black people, or that our society has been built off of the foundation that black families never received equity. That they were forced into joining a white society where they were not helped by the government. This catapulted into a cycle of no jobs and less education and therefore also lesser money, and higher criminal rates in order to sustain themselves.
Throughout my education I never knew that I could be whatever I wanted to be-- that one could be a brown writer and be successful. That one could be a brown female and be pretty. That one could be brown and be worthy. No teacher explicitly taught a lesson at school that minorities weren’t worthy, but their lack of words and information on the subject spoke volumes. The lack of shared success from those of color seeped into the back of my mind and whispered suggestions that no one of color would ever be worthy. So now it is my job as the Diversity and Inclusion chair of Gamma to try and learn everything that was never said. To finally learn about the successes that minorities have accomplished, and to advocate their accomplishments. To push the understanding that you are worthy--not despite, but because of. Here at Gamma, we are a group of girls that understand and respect the inequalities in our society. Nothing is perfect, but in regards to privilege and racial inequality, we need to strive for perfection. And it starts with acknowledging that racism is real.