Can we truly unlearn racism if we were taught that as young people? It seems common knowledge that we human beings are taught the differences between ourselves and another culture, tribe, group, community, nationality, etc. This is our identity. And sometimes instead of appreciating and embracing that other person or group, we could be taught even as very young children, to hate “the Other” based on appearances, without any rational reason.
The YWCA of Tucson has an excellent Racial Justice project, including ongoing Time to Talk forums, Understanding Racism Community Education, Racial Justice Youth programs, and an Anti-racism and Diversity Resource Directory. They have been conducting these workshops in Tucson for decades, in their attempt to carry on their mission: “to create opportunities for women’s growth, leadership and power, and the elimination of racism wherever it exists.”
The Unversity of Arizona has Social Justice Programs which “supports, advocates, and educates the University of Arizona and greater community in the areas of inequality and social injustices found in our society. We look at what we can learn from the distribution of power, privilege, and oppression. Our mission is to create a socially conscious campus.” They are sponsoring several upcoming films and workshops on rights for LGBT, women, disabled, racial minorities, etc. A workshop on Power & Privilege is being held today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in room 404 of the Student Union.
Growing up in multi-cultural Hawaii, I was not immune from racism/hatred directed against some white people (the Hawaiian term is “haoles”), or even the single bi-racial black/white family in our rural sugar plantation community. I heard the heckling and animosity directed against these individuals, and I knew in my heart that it was wrong.
My own mother (second generation Japanese American, a U.S. Citizen born in the Trust Territory of Hawaii) instructed me as a teenager not to ever date Black men. And I heard her still say that same statement to my son when he attained his dating age as well. She unfortunately must have learned this prejudice from her parents who had immigrated from Japan.
I skeptically listened to my mother out of filial respect for her, but when I went to college I met more people of all races at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It was there that I realized that my mother was wrong to make such a blanket statement against blacks.
I unlearned the racism that was taught to me as I realized when I grew into adulthood that there were no reasons to hate someone based on their skin color, or any other criteria for that matter (i. e. gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation). I think that people can be taught to realize the prejudices they have learned as they grew up, and then consciously undo this teaching and embrace diversity.
These two programs at the YWCA and the U of A are there to enable social change to occur in our community, even after decades of racism.
And thanks to “Blogbits”- Steven Smith for his 9/1/09 blog “No One is Born Prejudiced“