Yes, we’re talking about racism

There has been a lot of chatter about racism over the past few weeks. The YWCA Northcentral PA’s mission statement says we should aim to eliminate racism, so let’s talk about it.

Racism is defined as the belief that race determines human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, according to Merriam-Webster.

It is a learned behavior; no one is born with racist ideologies. People learn it from how those around them treat and talk about minority groups as well as negative influences on the internet. Especially as children, when they see repeated behaviors like making racist jokes or hearing derogatory name calling, it begins to influence how they see others. People of different races are no longer people, they are the other.

Creating overarching, blanket stigmas about racial groups does nothing but divide people against one another. It perpetuates a culture of fear that minority groups are not equal to white people and they are not welcome in America.

Assuming all people of a certain race are all alike makes them one-dimensional humans. If a group is comprised of one-dimensional humans then it’s easier to not see them as equals. Minority groups are sometimes put into boxes that can be challenging to break out of.

It is 2019, we all need to let everyone bloom as individuals, to grow outside of these boxes society puts us in. People are more complex than what we see on the outside.

To use myself as an example, being a white woman with red hair doesn’t say much about who I am. My outward appearance doesn’t show the world that I’m a passionate writer who is obsessed with cats and is learning Japanese in my spare time.

Instead of perpetuating outdated, racist stigmas, let’s open our minds to the possibility that people are more complex than our inaccurate assumptions.

Michelle Obama recently tweeted, “What truly makes our country great is its diversity. I’ve seen that beauty in so many ways over the years. Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for us all. We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”

She has the right idea. She reminds us that America is a cultural melting pot complete with every color of the rainbow. Diversity can be seen in two ways: Something to fear or something to celebrate. When we fear what is unfamiliar, it strengthens the racial divide.

I may not have the answer to ending racism but I believe it all starts with a conversation, education and self-reflection.

If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend reading “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain” by Phoebe Robinson. Robinson tells stories about growing up black in an affluent neighborhood, the history of black hair in popular culture and her experiences as a woman of color. It’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you think.

In these strange times, may we all keep our minds open to new ideas and respect those who are different from us.

— Bloom is the communications and development manager at the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St. Her column is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Options can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.