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Why We Need To Examine Ourselves, Not Just Charlottesville

24/08/2017 16:40

Video footage of the Charlottesville riots has confirmed fears that Trump's leadership has plunged America into a time warp. Despite a plethora of preventative efforts, America has reverted to a time whereby bigoted and violent white supremacists are excused by the establishment.

In the week succeeding the unrest, it has been reassuring to see people throughout the world band together to denounce hostile racism. However, whilst we rally against racially incited hatred, we must acknowledge that extremist bigotry obtains close links to the covert racism visible in everyday life.

Covert racism is so deeply ingrained that the majority of westernised white people (no matter how ('liberal'), have, at some point in our lives, re-instated racist power structures or failed to challenge them. I have, (in my teenage ignorance) blithely referred to a black friend as an Oreo, just as I have undoubtedly failed to challenge a multitude of racist micro-aggressions that I failed to recognise as such.

This lack of understanding may not compare to the hatred witnessed in Virginia. However, covert racism plays a large role in propping up extremist racism and is constantly exercised (both consciously and sub-consciously) through the abuse of white privilege, racist micro-aggressions and cultural appropriation. However, unlike the mass-condemnation that greeted the racially incited violence in Virginia, 'subtler' forms of racism are less commonly addressed by the white population. Subtle racism is often disparaged on the grounds that it's 'oversensitive', overly "politically correct" or "pulling the black card".

Amongst these "non-racist", "liberal" white people, two issues seem to be playing a particularly large role in the maintenance of societal racism: guilt and denial. Coming to terms with the fact that you have contributed to (and undoubtedly benefited from) a prejudicial and discriminatory system is a guilt-inducing process.

However, we cannot let this guilt incite us to deny the prevalence of racism. To deny the fact that black men are six times more likely to be searched by the police. That non-white job seekers are denied jobs solely on account of their skin colour. That little brown and black girls grow up feeling inferior because they do not look like their white friends.

Saturday's abhorrent demonstrations confirmed that (surprise, surprise) racism is alive and kicking. It is our duty to ensure that what happened in Charlottesville serves as a wakeup call; the white tendency to deflect responsibility can no longer take priority over racism. We must do more than merely condemn the attacks and chastise Trump. We must examine and circumvent the racially-charged ideologies that hold jurisdiction over humanity instead of evading them through tears because they make us 'uncomfortable' (I'm looking at you, Kelly Francis).

It has never been easier to educate ourselves on western racial dynamics, with representations of the non-white experience finally being featured amidst mainstream culture. Netflix series, 'Dear White People', depicts the systemic racism of a supposedly liberal college campus in the US whilst satirical horror film 'Get Out' demonstrates how racist micro-aggressions are modern reverberations of slavery and colonialism. Finally, docudrama, 'All Eyez On Me' depicts the life and death of Tupac Shakur - confronting issues from westernised beauty standards to police brutality and systemic racism.

It is time to accept that within our culturally constructed, anti-label society, race exists - social construct or otherwise. Our lack of politically correct language, participation in racist jokes (regardless of whether or not your "black friend" is visibly offended), and participation in (or failure to protest) racial bias, are the foundation bricks of a pyramid that holds racist hierarchy at its core.

It is not the responsibility of POC to educate the uninformed, ignorant or hateful. The overturning of racism requires people who look like me (white) to acknowledge, discern and dismantle its existence.

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