Unlearning racism

I am not a racist. That does not mean I do not have racism embedded inside me. I know for a fact that I do. I have all kinds of isms lurking inside my head. That’s part of being human. The reason I’m not a racist, or a sexist, or other ist, is that I choose to recognize the isms, and I reject what they represent.

Unfortunately, that laudable attitude does not extract the isms. The ugly concepts still reside. Also, ignorance. Lots of ignorance. Some of the ignorance I’m aware of: I don’t know what words or phrases to use to talk about people in my community that describe them, their circumstances, etc, without demeaning them, victimizing them, other-izing them, etc. I also know there are things I don’t even know I’m ignorant of.

As Donald Rumsfeld noted, I have unknown unknowns to go along with my known unknowns.

I have much to unlearn. In unlearning my isms, I have other things to learn in their place. I will need to ask people directly for help. More importantly, I need to participate in the work people are doing in various communities. I need to become a partner so that I don’t merely unlearn/learn words and phrases; I need to learn the true nature of people’s lives and experiences.

Becoming politically correct is of limited utility (a good thing to do, regardless). What matters most is to have knowledge and understanding of people’s lives. The latter is the best way to learn the former.


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