Are We Guilty of Cultural Bigotry?

Note:  this was originally posted as a response to the comment left by wylde-goose to my post “An Attempt To Write These Wrongs” but I figured that it was deserving of  its own space so it didn’t end up buried in the bottom of the comments section.

I agree with you completely on a lot of points,

Indeed a large part of the people out there grouped together as “racist” when perhaps ethnocentric is a term that would fit better because the biggest differences ARE cultural in origin. Perhaps the deepest cultural divides are the ones drawn within an individual ethnic group. Whites weren’t the only ones to flee the large influx of southern rural african-americans who moved north to industrial centers during the Great Migration. Many of the more established and well off, African-Americans fled as well. To take that to its extreme there is the gang culture. Living in Norther California, I am all too aware of the ongoing gang war between the Nortenos and the Surenos gangs, knowing people personally for whom that is just a way of life, probably the only one they’ll ever know, the reality they live in. If I lived in Southern California I would be more familiar with the struggle between the Bloods and the Crips. There are countless others, these are just two I am familiar with. This among other things leads me to agree with your friends that unfortunately racism is the correct word for the behavior of more than .1% of the population.

That was precisely the point of my original post. It’s here, all around us, still woven into the fabric of society, like a pox infested blanket. Its ugly, just as ugly today as yesteryear, its just more discreet for the most part, in any case, personally I am not OK with it. I hope that it was clear that me saying we should “own it” and recognize its existence was in no way meant to trivialize it. Quite the opposite really, I think that for most Americans the struggle for civil rights ended in 1965 after the Voting Rights Act, or when that same episode everyone watches of the Ken Burns special ended. Shows over, pack up its time to go. The only people talking about race in any public way are caricatures in a sense like you described in your response, further adding to the illusion that it can’t be a “real” concern, held by “real” people, justifying our collective lack of concern because, It’s just nonsense spouted by “crackpots” (in both camps) as a publicity stunt, extremists from one end or the other.  We all look at the world through a different lens, our prescription is determined in part by a combination of both experience and upbringing. There’s no sense in denying it, were human. However, that does not excuse the individual from personal accountability either. We all have to accept responsibility for the ways in which we have actively shaped our own reality.

It is easy to take a look at people who seem to embody stereotypes and say, “see” theres proof, these stereotypes are stereotypes because they’re true, my bigotry is justified.  That is not only a very lazy approach, its harmful, only further promoting cultural bigotry.  More than that though, it just doesn’t make sense, I mean isn’t that kinda like reading your horoscope and then attributing to the stars some uncanny ability to predict your future when things came true…? Now you have to ask yourself, how much of that was you making it come true because you read it?

Usually, If you think something enough you’re bound to make it true in some way. My family didn’t exactly bring me up as anything but a mild racist.  If I would have allowed that to be justification enough, then I would be exactly that. While I could say that my parents were merely a product of their times, and it is true to some extent, it’s really just a cop-out, an excuse. There has even been experiences in my past, of where something screwed up happened to me. It would have been easy to blame an entire group of people for the wrongs committed by a few, who just so happened to share similarities with them. (I wont even lie that it wasn’t my first reaction, albeit a brief one) If I feed that beast,I’m just part of the problem, rather than the solution. I would become everything that I am against. I know that I have absolutely no idea on where to start or what to do to achieve this thing I believe in. I just know that the ONLY thing I can control, is myself, and how I treat people and when I have children what I teach them, hoping to be the best role model possible.


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