Addressing Denial of Racial Inequality: Start With Yourself
It's time for us to stop being complicit in systemic racism.
Posted Jun 22, 2020
Just when we thought we were experiencing something horrific and historical in COVID-19, we find it usurped by a far more horrific and historical condition—systemic racism and longstanding injustice of blacks, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The atrocious murder of George Floyd in front of us all as witnesses has prompted an unforeseen breakout. Our denial of racial inequality is in our face.
As a white woman, I'm working to uncover my own racism. I'm compelled to no longer deny, tolerate, or go along in the conventional ways. It behooves each of us to begin with a deep search within ourselves for internalized systemic beliefs that support racism. We accept that we’ll be uncomfortable, perhaps feel vulnerable, bringing to our conscious selves what we have not seen or chosen to ignore. When we do, we will be enlightened to make other choices—better choices in the service of racial equality.
Racial Equality and the Law
Racial equality occurs when institutions give equal opportunities to people of all races. In other words, regardless of physical traits such as skin color, institutions are to give individuals legal, moral, and political equality.
It’s easy to forget, ignore, or not realize in the United States, racial equality has become a law that regardless of what race an individual is, they will receive equal treatment, opportunity, education, employment, and politics.
The law is the Equality Act that came into effect in 2010 that says you must not be discriminated against because of your race. It’s time to uphold the Equality Act and actively hold ourselves and others responsible to do so.
From Not Knowing to Knowing
When I work with women in the realm of intimate partner abuse, I start by helping them see their denial or ways they don’t see their partner’s overpowering control in the relationship—a necessary first step. It’s only when they see the coercion embedded in their partner’s behavior that they get clear and recognize the harm they’ve been enduring all along. This sparks a strong determination to recover, get stronger, and make changes.
If we own that we’ve been in a state of denial about how black, indigenous and people of color are mistreated, we are taking a first and necessary step out of denying the existence of systemic racism. To believe “I don’t see color” or “I’m colorblind” is denial speaking. The goal must be to open up ourselves to fully see what is happening all around us and to have the intention to listen, learn, and be aware of racial inequality and its traumatic effects on those targeted.
Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, healthcare, political power, and education.
Systemic racism is the result of white supremacy. When you’re born white and grow up in this country, you’re internalizing consciously or unconsciously the racist beliefs of the dominant group in power. For example, in the media when we witness a black man being arrested, we are more likely to see that black man as guilty—it’s a given that we learned. Over and over, in various ways, we are taught, we internalize, and we support the racist practices in our country.
Currently, as we step back and take a serious look, we see how our institutions have misled us, gaslighted us to believe a false reality about all people of color, and made us complicit in systemic racism.
Now that we see, we cannot stand to “not know.” We can recognize our past, feel ashamed, but it’s what we each do going forward that makes us responsible.
Decide What You’re Going to Do
As we see discriminatory acts or behaviors by blacks and people of color that we react to unfavorably, we need to pause. As a personal first step, recognize the negative judgment or feelings stirring, take the time to search within yourself, and identify the internalized racist belief you hold. Once you consciously have it, you have a choice—decide whether it has a place in your heart anymore. If not, sometimes it helps to say, "that’s old, and from where I stand now, it’s no longer true for me." This is one of many steps we’ll need to do over and over and over to make progress toward racial equality.
8 Everyday Ways to Fight Racism