Pop Culture
Feb 25, 2014, 06:38AM

The Cycle of Racism

Can people who experience discrimination recognize it in themselves?

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Here’s an example of how idealistic and naive I can be: I thought that anyone who’s experienced discrimination would be mature enough to recognize it in themselves. Silly. Thinking that someone who’s been bullied or treated unfairly would try to avoid inflicting the same pain or frustration on others, now that's ridiculous.... right? I bring this up because I’ve found this to be true on many occasions, and would like people to recognize hypocrisy. The world will never change if we all hang on to our pain in order to inflict it on others.

How about racial minorities that are unbelievably racist? In an environment where they've had to deal with ignorance and negativity, instead of seeing the same in themselves they contribute to the cycle by buying into the same beliefs as their persecutors: that there is a 'better' race, and they belong to it. Careless words can do just as much damage as outright hatred, but racial jokes are still bantered around with very little self-awareness. When I was part of the white majority back in Canada, I was horrified to hear people of any race or ethnicity making base jokes about others; the fact that it’s become commonplace to make fun of white people is no less upsetting. In fact, the whole concept of reverse racism was coined to explain this phenomenon, despite the fact that this is a logical impossibility—being racist against the dominant majority is not righteous, does not make things better, and is still just racism.

Now that I live in Japan and encounter the xenophobic racism that is so embedded in the culture I am given pause on a weekly basis. Caricatures of  “foreigners” with gigantic white noses, black-face on TV, even services allowing you to “rent a gaijin (foreigner)”; those are the “harmless” forms of racism. You will meet Japanese who dislike how they're treated abroad, who just can't figure out why people fetishize their women and culture... it's the same thing and part of me wants to scream.

Or how about the misogynistic tendencies of some gay males? You’d think someone who’s been persecuted for “femininity” would be self-aware enough to realize that is just passing along the buck. Not only does it demonstrate the appallingly cruel gender hierarchy in society—that males are at the peak and women are below them—with gay males often trying to navigate between the two and avoid losing their privilege completely by being lowered to the status of women, it also indicates a callous disregard for someone in a similar position. Women are treated just as badly by the same group of males, and don't deserve to have this further abuse heaped on them.

The schisms within the LGBTQ community are equally glaring and ridiculous. Bisexuals, for example, face a discrimination so prevalent there is already a term for it: bi-erasure. There’s an insidious tendency within both the queer and straight communities to believe that bisexuality does not exist or is simply a code word for something else. Having the ability to be attracted to both sexes/genders does not necessarily mean you want them at the same time. Stop making ignorant assumptions: I expect more from the queer community. As a group that’s persecuted for their own sexuality, there should much less narrow-minded and condescending rubbish. I've heard people close to me say that they don't believe in bisexuality, that it's impossible to like both sexes/genders and it's just a lie to make it sound better when you're “transitioning.” It devalues the experiences of people who are bisexual (and we do exist!) and creates yet another group who are discriminated against. I’d also like to mention the Trans community here, as I understand they share similar struggles; it's important to remember that acceptance for yourself should mean acceptance for all (as long as it doesn't harm others).

Sexuality is plastic and fluid, but that shouldn't be taken as a way to devalue the experiences of the person involved or their relationships. If someone starts out queer and then finds that they are more attracted to the opposite sex and decide to choose a member of that sex for a committed partner, that does not invalidate all their previous relationships. Who you love is what matters. Why try to categorize something as beautiful as the connection between two people by holding it up to the expectations of someone else?


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