Enlightenment Vs. Unenlightenment Regarding Racism Essay, Research Paper
There is no doubt that racism exists in the United States. Almost everyone can admit this. The interesting part is that some people will admit that they themselves are racist while others will claim that they are enlightened and that they are not racist or prejudiced. The truth is that the one who can admit he is racist is actually the enlightened one. Someone who claims he is enlightened and that he does not see color is in the dark, he is unenlightened.
It is a sad truth that being racist is more natural in American society than to not be. As Robert Heilbroner says in Don?t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgments, ?Stereotypes are one way in which we ?define? the world in order to see it. They classify the infinite variety of human beings into a convenient handful of ?types? towards whom we learn to act in stereotyped fashion. Life would be a wearing process if we had to start from scratch with each and every human contact.?
Our country has a long history of racism that continues today. Racism is perpetuated everywhere we look. We have the stereotypical Asian American in our television sitcoms and we have the token Black American in our advertisements. One who can admit that this is not satisfactory in being an accurate depiction of our population has her eyes open. It is important to realize that the fight against the ignorance of racism has only just begun. Someone who is enlightened admits she is racist so she may then move on to become educated toward a better understanding of her experience and the experience of others. Admitting you are racist encourages you to notice the prevalence of racism in our world and in ourselves. Admitting you are racist can be painful for us white-folk and for everyone because you have to admit to yourself how sick it is, but this is the beginning of the freedom. Just like the drug addict who finally comes out of denial, realizing your sickness is the only way toward health.
I have often heard my fellow White Americans claim that they are not prejudiced because they do not see color as if this is a good thing; an enlightened way to be! Not seeing color is the same as being in the dark. Saying you do not see color when you look upon a person of color denies that this part of their identity exists. It is really that you are not seeing them wholly and you are filtering out the important element of ethnicity for your own comfort. I think a lot of people do not even realize they do this. Like Plato?s cave dwellers in his famous work, The Allegory of the Cave, most White Americans, and all racists included, do not see real objects: real people, but instead they see and hear the shadows: a fragment of the truth, if, even that. ?And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow??
Just like the cave dwellers, one who has not admitted he is racist has not emerged from the cave to seen any other perspective. He has not admitted that racism is prevalent in his world and that he is fully emerged in it. He has not seen that he is racist when he makes jokes or comments about a person?s ethnicity in a derogatory manner. He remains in the darkness of the cave, not seeing color, unenlightened.
I have observed that some of these people who claim to not see color, thinking themselves enlightened, prefer the word ?prejudiced? as opposed to ?racist? because, I believe there exists some fear in even uttering the word and acknowledging the concept of racism. Accepting you are racist is the first step to becoming enlightened as far as racial issues go. If you hold an ideal of human harmony, you must admit you are racist, educate yourself and others, and then turn it around so that you can begin to honor diversity. The alternative is to remain in the dark, not seeing color, not wholly seeing the people in the world, and not wholly seeing yourself.