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As a white female who grew up in a small town in Kansas, I am blessed to say that I have never experienced racism. My hometown had a population of about 4,500 people and was mostly comprised of white individuals. Growing up, I was rarely exposed to the disgusting views of racism. Most of my young life, I was naïve to the fact that not everyone was treated with the same amount of respect. When I was in high school, I learned about the impact of racism from an individual who had experienced it firsthand.
Douglas Daniels was my private baton twirling coach throughout my high school years. He was an African American male coach in a sport that was predominately comprised of white females. When he was a young boy, he attended a baton competition in Southern Arkansas during the late 1970s. He was told he had to leave the competition and was not allowed to compete because of the color of his skin.
This was not the only time he was impacted by racism. His testimony truly opened my eyes to the influence racism has over individuals. It is difficult to fully grasp the concept until you put yourself in someone else’s shoes who has experienced it.
To truly understand was racism is, we need to fully understand the definition of race. Race is a social construction and is different from ethnicity. Ethnicity can be defined by a group that shares a common ancestry, history, or culture.
On the other hand, “race can be conceptualized as ethnoracial, historically rooted distinctions or social constructions” (Williams, 2018). In other words, race is not a biological construct. Racism is when one group sees a certain race as inferior to their own. Therefore, they treat a person differently based on the color of their skin. Discrimination takes place when a person or a group is segregated based on their race, disability, or sexuality. Prejudice happens when we judge based upon a stereotype and not their character. A stereotype is a generalized belief or expectation placed on a group of people. According to Everyday Sociology, “Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes that affect our judgments and decisions unconsciously” (Williams, 2018). On the other hand, Explicit bias would be the attitudes we have towards a person or a group on a conscious level. Racism is an issue that we need to recognize to bring it to an end. In this paper, I will be applying these key terms to the examples shown in the film Everyday Racism in America. I will also share my reaction and views toward the film.
The film Everyday Racism in America immediately introduces the issue of racism and how black men are viewed in the United States. It opens with a black man telling about himself and explaining who he is as a person. He says, “I just want you to get to know me better before you call the cops”. This short opening clip addresses the stereotypes that are placed on black men. Black individuals are often stereotyped as being uneducated, Muslim, and troublemakers. The film also addressed implicit biases and explicit biases. In the film, an individual shared his experiences that took place in his apartment building. A resident in the building called the police because they thought that he was trying to break into an apartment. The individual who called the cops allowed their implicit biases to take over and ended up calling the police on an innocent man. Another example of implicit bias that the film shared would be the incident that took place in a Starbucks. Two black individuals were asked to leave the establishment for no reason other than that they were not placing orders. The person who asked them to leave probably did not realize that they were being racist. Their implicit biases caused them to think that the individuals were there to cause problems. As a result of the individual’s biases, they ended up discriminating against them based on their skin color. On the other hand, Roseanne’s comment on twitter was an example of explicit bias. Her comment was rude, distasteful and full of hate. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable, and our country should work to bring it to an end.
I thought this film was very insightful and brought light to the issues that are taking place in our country. The content is so relevant to the problems that individuals are facing each day. It is difficult for people to fully grasp racism unless they have experienced it first-hand. I think others could benefit from watching this film because it allows you to see the whole picture. As a white individual, it is difficult to fully comprehend how racism is taking place all around us. In the film, it was mentioned that white individuals want to have conversations about racism, but they do not know how to go about it. If we truly open our eyes and try to put ourselves in other’s shoes, then we can start to understand how people feel when they experience racism. We will start to feel more comfortable and open about having these conversations. In order to solve a problem, you must first recognize the problem. I think this film would help individuals recognize these problems that take place in our country.
This film opened my eyes even more to the racism that individuals are facing each day in the United States. When Douglas was my coach, many people acted shocked that he was my coach. Many times, people would say, “I would not expect him to be a twirling coach”. I know that this was because he was a black man. Also, people did not understand my relationship with Douglas. I was close to him and saw him as a member of my family. It was difficult for me to explain to people that he was more like a close uncle or grandparent to me. People could not understand that a young white girl could see a black man as a part of her family. I believe these opinions stemmed from stereotypes and implicit biases. Even though we lost Coach Douglas last year, I will always remember the lessons he taught me. He was loving and kind towards everyone. Even though he experienced hate from other individuals, he never allowed that to cause him bitterness. I think there is a lesson that our whole country could learn from Coach Douglas. He did not harbor ill feelings based on past experiences. As a country, are we going to continue to hold our negative views of the past? Are we going to continue to stereotype groups based on the color of their skin? Are we going to continue to hold our implicit and explicit biases? Or are we going to move forward and try to be a country that does not discriminate based on skin color? It is up to us, what kind of country are we going to be?
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