Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Stop Being Racist: Numbers 16 and 17

[If you're new 'round these parts, and want to read #s 1-14, click here.
and number 15 is here]

I think I might be onto something with these suggestions. It's funny, because the idea of making a list like this is so antithetical to what I have learned in so much of my work around diversity. But I know am tired of yelling at white people for not doing anything, and then yelling at them again when they do do some thing, because that thing wasn't the thing they were supposed to do.

It's like, the power to make white people feel bad is not the type of Black Power I am looking for, ya feel me?

All right, let's get to the new additions...

16) Make a concerted effort to say and spell people's names correctly (even the difficult ones.)

Pretty self-explanatory. This is something that will not only make you less racist, but more generally a more considerate, less self-centered person. Dale Carnegie says in his classic best seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People that a person's name is the sweetest, most important sound to them in the whole world.

It would follow then that hearing your name mispronounced, while not the worst thing in the world, is annoying. And if it happens frequently because your name is unusual, it's more annoying.

If I may go off on a tangent for a bit, this is one of the reasons I think Starbucks needs to get rid of names on cups. There was never really a problem with people taking the wrong drink before, which was the supposed reasoning behind it. Names on cups also promotes a false sense of intimacy, because before you were supposed to learn your customer's names by actually getting to know them. Finally, names on cups raises the chances with uncommon names (which is probably a disproportionate number of people of color,) will have that irritating experience of having their name mangled early in the morning before they've had their caffeine... and that's just cruel.

So when you meet someone with a name you've never heard before, work to learn it. Break it down into syllables, use visual cues to help you remember, ask them to repeat it, ask them if you said it right when you say it back, and don't ask them if you can call them some shortened or Americanized version. And if they have an extra y or an apostrophe or an umlaut, remember those too. I bet they'll appreciate it.

17) Donate to causes that advocate for groups that you have biases against.

No, I'm not talking about the KKK.

Let me give you an example from my own life: Like most people living in this society, I have a bias against people with intellectual disabilities. I don't know if it is more, less, or the same amount of bias that most people have. And you know what? It really doesn't matter. Because like I said here, using what other people do or don't do when it comes to bias can often be a hella low bar by which to judge yourself. I think it's better to go off of your own understanding of where you'd like to be in regards to racism and other -isms, and do the work necessary to get there. There is always going to be someone more closed-minded than you; that is not an excuse to get complacent.

So yeah, I have this bias. One of the things that I do counteract it is donate our uneeded clothing and household items to an organization that works with and advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. There is another organization that is closer to me. They also take donations, and they work with at-risk youth trying to get them to stay in school and learn job skills. At-risk youth learning job skills is so much more up my alley. And that's exactly why I donate to the first place.

They sell my items, and make money for programs that help the clients they serve. They also help come up with things like the r-word campaign that help educate those of us without intellectual disabilities about the things that we do without thinking (privilege!) that help make the world a worse place.

Here is a link to an article entitled, What Does Modern Prejudice Look Like?. It's a thought-provoking read, and asks "the good people" to take a look at how their actions allow institutional -isms to continue.

All right, my husband's home now and I haven't seen him all day, so I gotta go. You know I loooove your comments, so leave me one if you feel so inclined.

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