Barbara Cameron

Where does racism come from? Not the racism that sees white exclude darker skin colors, but the racism that exists between minorities. Minorities who should be banding together. Instead, we throw stones among ourselves and end up serving those who oppress us. The white culture that is set as what all should imitate is founded on a politeness that is fertile ground for -isms. If we don’t look, don’t ask… then we never find out how different we are not. Barbara Cameron’s essay “’Gee, You Don’t Seem Like An Indian From the Reservation,’” begins with the racism that she experienced as a child.

As a young child, she was raised in a culture that reviled the whites, “their culture of deceit, greed, racism, and violence” (46). And what she saw of white culture only convinced her that that view was correct. While attending an all white school, Cameron was singled out on a trick-or-treat outing to not receive treats because of the color of her skin. When she told her mother, “[She] paid a visit to the woman which resulted in their expressing a barrage of equal hatred for one another. I remember sitting in our pick-up hearing the intensity of the anger and feeling very sad that my mother had to defend her child to someone who wasn’t worthy of her presence” (47). One act of cruelty begat anger that only caused more anger. And what was the point? Where did the woman’s cruelty come from in the first place?
I’ve grown up with misconceptions about Blacks, Chicanos, and Asians…. To intellectually understand that it is wrong or politically incorrect to be racist leaves me cold. A lot of poor or working class white and brown people are just as racist as the “capitalist pig.” We are all continually pumped with gross and inaccurate images of everyone else and we all pump it out. I don't think there are say answers of formulas. My personal attempts at eliminating my racism have to start at the base level of those mind-sets that inhibit my relationships with people. (49)
Our own misconceptions about others are barriers. We keep them built high because we don't know any better. We laugh at the racist joke and go back to feeling comfortable within our barriers. What we don't know won't hurt us. And neither can it help us help ourselves or others. 

Cameron's essay points out the error in remaining comfortable: 
Being third world doesn't always  connote a political awareness or activism.... I agree that everyone is entitles to "be themselves" but in a society that denies respect and basic rights to people because of their ethnic background [add sexual orientation], I feel that individuals cannot idly sit by and allow themslves to be co-opted by the dominant society. (50)
The recent mayoral election in Chicago might well be an example. How many voters would it have taken to make a difference in the outcome? Less, I'm certain, than the number that didn't vote, considering the turnout was close to 40%. And how many of those that didn't vote didn't go because they felt they couldn't make a difference, because it wasn't really their business to rock the boat or express themselves politically, whether they articulated it to that level or not?

No comments:

Post a Comment