We live in a zombie film, endangered and weary of something that should have died long ago and yet lives on.
Racism lingers, continuing to creep around every corner, avoidable by none, and we need to be able to discuss it openly without fear of retribution.
There are many touchy subjects out there ranging from abortion to xenophobia, but unlike others on the list, racism is one that no one can opt out of being affected by its consequences. We only get past racism by addressing it. We just need to talk about it.
It can be awkward; it can be shameful; it can be unforgiving, but opening a discussion of racism shouldn’t be the barrier, it should be the solution. Big change comes from big effort, and we as a people have shown that progress is not unattainable in this area.
Segregated bathrooms, schools and bus seating are things of the past, and yet it is still so difficult to have a simple conversation about the subject.
Many people may feel they are unqualified to speak to the situation because they are not members of the groups affected. Some merit may lie in the idea that not everyone has been victim to racial oppression; therefore, how can those individuals be qualified to speak about it.
Since when, though, has that been the baseline for knowledge or understanding? For those who have won the battle against clinical depression with the help of a friend, did your friend also have to be depressed in order to help you?
While some may believe that a firsthand account may be the only true way to know meaning, it is not beyond us as people to be understanding. We have to give the benefit of the doubt that understanding will win out, as it has in the past.
It’s the tribalism perhaps. We come from a history where nature bestowed on us the primitive instinct that sticking with our tribe was necessary for survival, and a sense of belonging is a craving for us all. When we belong to a group, that instinct is satisfied, but we are no longer Neanderthals. We now can decide on the progress we make with more than just instinct. We have a choice.
Yes, we still make generalizations; we create patterns; we create stereotypes. We tend to group people together and, when we don’t fit in that group, whether it’s based on age, race or religion, then that group becomes the “other.” Yet why aren’t we the “other?” After all, it’s us that doesn’t fit in that group.
Addressing issues of racism is one of humanity’s most dividing and overwhelming challenges. If we avoid conflict and awkwardness and fear, we will never move forward. Since when have solutions been found by hiding behind what’s uncomfortable?
We have to be willing to accept the uncomfortable and discuss the issue to move forward. Until then, racism will remain a zombie we can never lay to rest.