So for this blog post I just wanted to discuss racism and prejudice in American society, building somewhat off of a Ted Talk I just watched called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race” by Speaker Jay Smooth. (If you want to check it out: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxHampshireCollege-Jay-Smooth)
Alright so at the part I’ve just paused the video on, Jay Smooth is discussing how we approach being a racist with the false dichotomy of “I am a racist” or “I am not a racist.” In actuality, everyone carries some ingrained prejudice or stereotypes, even if they do not consciously act on them or fully realize that they exist. I believe it is impossible to be entirely egalitarian in this day and age, even if you appear to be from others’ perspectives. Smooth was saying that when telling someone that they’ve said something offensive, it’s hard to keep the conversation focused on what they said and not who they are. Especially on the Internet, controversial comments often escalate quickly and people tend to jump to attacking someone’s character instead of focusing on the issue being discussed. Smooth said that you can’t just be a good person; it’s not a label that can just be constant and because you are a good person, that doesn’t mean you never say something that’s racially insensitive or biased. Rather, being good is a conscious act in the choices you make and is something that has to be worked towards and maintained.
I think a lot of what Smooth is saying really fits in with the discussion of growth and fixed mindsets that I was having in some of my classes last semester. The idea of growth and fixed mindsets are that a lot of people have a fixed mindset when approaching school or any other skill. Someone with a fixed mindset will say “Oh, I’m bad at math” and then not try to understand their lessons or assignments because they’re bad at it anyway, so why try? And then what we should all strive to have are growth mindsets. Someone with a growth mindset realizes that they may have to put in some extra effort in math, but they can learn to succeed and have room to grow. It’s really all about recognizing your own faults and then striving to be open minded and do your best.
I think we should learn to approach racism with a growth mindset. I think, as Ifemelu and Obinze learn in Americanah, white society wants to ignore race and is uncomfortable talking about it. But ignoring race and treating everyone as if they’re white marginalizes diversity and pushes everyone to conform to the same standards. I think that we should all recognize that each of us has inherent prejudices, just because it is impossible not to. We have prejudices for race in the same way we have prejudice for social class, bad parts of town, physical appearances such as weight, the way someone dresses or does their makeup, or even hair color. We have stereotypes for people from Texas or Australia or China, in the same way we have stereotypes for kids in show choir, cheerleading, or debate.