You know, given the recent Imus incident (and other race-related stuff, including Virginia Tech shootings) I thought I might jot down some of my thoughts about racism in the United States. Because quite a few people, okay white people, thought, well know that we got Imus fired we can go back to the racism-free world that is America, 2007. Like because we don’t have Jim Crow laws, we don’t have racism. We live in a “color-blind” world! Everything is good! Imus…and Rosie O’Donnell…and Michael Richards…and Paris Hilton and [insert celebrity with racist actions and/or speech]: they are aberrations, not examples of a racist society, writ large.
And this bothers me. Because it is simply not true, even leaving aside institutional racism, many of us living in this society are racist to one degree or another. It may be buried to varying depths within us all, but make no mistake: it’s there. And so I think it is actually hurtful to think that there are just a few exceptions out there – funny how they are all celebrities – and the rest of us are just fine. Because if we don’t address the racism within us, and work towards change -both at the individual and societal level- then racism, it isn’t going away. It may just simmer underneath the surface, until (seemingly) suddenly something like Imus happens, or the reaction when a young Korean-American goes on a shooting spree and somehow an entire nationality (and one of color- that’s not an accident!) shares the blame, or when brown people try to immigrate to this country. Or on a more personal level, you go to a sports event attended by mostly white people and hear a multitude of racist remarks.
Racism is real. It is here. If you are white and progressive, you may not see it. But ask brownfemipower, Nezua, luisa, Sylvia, BlackAmazon, Marisa, the bloggers at Anti-Racist Parent or any number of bloggers of color. We know it. We feel it. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it’s right out there for all to see. It hasn’t gone away just because Imus was fired. It won’t go away until we change ourselves and simultaneously change society. Change, it begins with us, as Latina Perdida recently commented over at Latina Lista. If we don’t change ourselves and actively work to change others all the time (i.e., not just when some white idiot calls black women nappy headed hos), then racism will not magically disappear. So I take the Imus incident as a wake-up call: Racism is still with us, in 2007. We’d better do something about it.