- Carissa Woodwyk
Racism...it's a word that provokes a lot of emotion.
For some, power.
For some, denial.
For some, fear.
For some, truth.
Racism is defined as, “actions, practices, or beliefs that reflect the racial worldview: the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called "races." This ideology entails the belief that members of a race share a set of characteristic traits, abilities, or qualities, that traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral characteristics are inherited, and that this inheritance means that races can be ranked as innately superior or inferior to others.” (Wikipedia)
Simply, “discrimination or prejudice + power.”
Some of us have power.
All of us have discriminated.
Let me see if I can flesh this out...
stereotype = generalization
prejudice = belief
discrimination = action
Here's an example:
All teenagers are rowdy. (stereotype)
All teenagers are rowdy; therefore, they will steal. (prejudice)
All teenagers are rowdy; therefore, they will steal; so, I will not allow them into my store. (discrimination)
Now, try adding skin color.
In America, the first 346 years of our country's beginnings were founded on, established with, and built on a belief that “people of color” were less than “White” people. That does something to the American mind and heart. We get impacted, we get shaped – intentionally and unintentionally – by our stories. Racism is part of America's story.
1492 – Columbus sailed the ocean blue
1619 – 1st slaves brought to America
1787 – legalized slavery and discrimination (Constitution of the U.S. held that Black persons were only 3/5 human)
1865 – end of “legal” slavery (Emancipation Proclamation/13th Amendment)
1882 – Chinese denied citizenship
1896 – Separate but Equal made law (Plessy vs. Ferguson)
1954 – Separate but Equal law overturned (Brown vs. Board of Education)
1965 – Civil Rights Act
What does this say about America?
There were 346 years of legalized slavery and/or discrimination.
There has been 47 years of legalized equality.
That shapes us.
That's part of America's story, our story.
If you were shown a picture of a “golden arch,” what restaurant would come to your mind?
If you were asked what brand of clothing wears a “check mark,” what would you say?
If you were asked what is the BEST macaroni and cheese? Which would you choose?
Someone, somewhere, somehow taught you this...and I bet you didn't even know it was happening.
Images...they're vivid and piercing and sustaining.
What was shown to us, what was told to us, what we experienced...it lingers.
Movies, TV shows, commercials, music, history books, brands, logos...they get seared into our brains. That's the goal, right? People's words and attitudes and biases and actions...they teach us. That's the goal, right? But we, have a choice, of what to do with the images and information and words and insight and truths that we're given. Right?
Maybe it's important to think about what we've been taught. Maybe we need to take some time evaluating what was offered to us, forced on us, secretly leaked into us. And then ask ourselves what we've done with it. Dismissed it? Digested it? Agreed with it? Offered it to someone else?
We've been shaped, we are shaping...our children, our co-workers, our Facebook friends, our churches, our systems. Will we have the courage to ask ourselves, the systems we find ourselves in, the relationships we play in, how we are growing, how we are reconciling, how we are...moving? Forward? Towards good, better, shalom?
Many of us have heard the saying, “The only thing we have control over is our decision, our choices.” So, whether the information above is new, old, unimportant, challenging or empowering, I want to invite you to ask yourselves what you've done with it, what you will do with it? Now. Because it's right in front of you. Would you be willing to take a step? Towards it? In it? Through it?
I share this belief that God has created us for movement. So, I encourage you to allow yourselves to be moved, stirred, jostled, uprooted. And then, ask your Creator, our Creator, “What would you invite me to do with this information, this history, my voice?”
Because the skin you're in is good. How will you choose to use it?
Carissa Woodwyk is a wife, mother and marriage and family therapist. She is also co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child's Lifestory. She enjoys speaking on relationships, marriage, identity, adoption and the human heart. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI. Follow her blog or catch up with her on facebook.