ANG 160 Fall 2005
In the following text, I will talk about my experience as a black girl living in a white culture. Therefore I will do an analysis of the behaviours and attitudes that white people can have when they are in the presence of a black person, where they come from, and why there are such racist behaviours and attitudes. This short paper will put in relief racism and its forms, the representations and stereotypical images of black people, and the origin of those racist behaviours. You will see that there are all kinds of reasons why people act differently with a person of another race.
When I was young, I was living in a small town that had only one elementary school. I was going to this school as the only black girl. Right at the beginning, I was marked as the new black girl in town. I was feeling a little bit afraid and alone. Some of the other children were looking at me weirdly or would barely look at me. Even in the bus I was feeling left out because few children would want to sit beside me. Those behaviours were some of the forms of racism that I was suffering from. The everyday racist behaviours are not always consciously adopted by the person, but they are immediately felt by the victim, and they can cause a lot of pain. It was very painful to hear the children say racist jokes or call me names like ``negress``. Today I can say from my own point of view that those children were not aware that they were being racist. In definition, racism usually occurs when a person is afraid of the unknown. In their case, that was true because it was the first time that they were around a black person, and they were a little scared of me. Our skin difference was the major reason that scared them. This difference made them distrust me because they were ignorant of the fact that I was still a human being just like them, even though my skin colour was darker. However their attitudes and behaviours towards me changed over time, and the children became less afraid and more friendly. They came to know me and trust me. Afterwards I made a lot of friends, and some of them were very happy to have a black friend because for them I was special. I didn’t want to be special. I just wanted to be treated like everybody else, but that was not always the case. Furthermore the fact that the children were no longer scared of me made them develop stereotypical images about me. Even today, there are still people who have stereotypical images about me, a black girl, like ``I must be a great dancer because I am black, and all blacks know how to dance.``
Even though I was raised in their ``white`` culture, people tend to have
stereotypes like: ``Do you play basketball?``, ``You must be good in basketball``,
``Blacks sure know how to dance``, ``Black girls have hot blood, they must be
good in bed``. Even though some are ``positive stereotypes`` and others ``negative
stereotypes``, there are still in the category of racist behaviours. They assume
that because we are blacks, we should be good in basketball, we should be good
dancers or even good in bed. These are just unfair representations. Even if we
are elevated to a place of idealization or romanticization, they are still
stereotypes that relate to racism. Those kinds of stereotypes also include the
fact that blacks are better physically and no good intellectually. I remember my
gym teacher asking me if I wanted to play on the basketball team. I was not a
tall girl and not very athletic, yet he asked me, mainly because I was black I
suppose. From generation to generation, people view Blacks as good athletics,
which is not a bad thing, but it is like we are viewed mainly as good athletes
and not as good intellectuals. Educators, coaches, and principally the media
images of successful Blacks athletes make those stereotypical images of Blacks
persist. Even if the stereotypes are positive or negative, those people tend to
have high expectations of each black individual. Therefore differential
treatment and conflicts arise because sometimes those students believe or
internalize those stereotypes, and focus more on their athletic abilities than
their academic performance and educational achievements. Whether we like it or
not, it still exists in the world today.
Also, in the world today, some white people who unconsciously show forms of racism didn’t plan or volunteer to become racist. Usually, those patterns that are created out of fear and hurt are set when the person is younger because of their parents’ attitudes. Instinctively, children know that each person has the right for respect. However when their loved parents act out patterns of white racism, it becomes difficult for them to change the situation. The children tend to share their patterns because they want to keep their parents’ favour. The adults’ racist actions stick in the children’s mind and become patterns of behaviour which they tend to fall into when they are afraid or upset.
Finally, like I mentioned previously, some white people are being racist unconsciously. ``Racism is simply the fear that comes from ignorance`` (Racism, reference online). Therefore it is possible for people who have racist behaviours, attitudes, actions, and patterns to eliminate them by starting to get to know more about other races.
Greatest Horror: Racism.
Henry, Frances. Concepts of Races and Racism and Implication fro OHRC Policy. December 2004.
James, Carl. Stereotyping and its consequence for racial minority
Wipfler, Patty. Eliminating the Hurts of White Racism.
Wise, Tim. Reply re Racist Theorizing.