Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lenses and Barriers—Understanding Racial Injustice

by Angelique Ambers, MCLP  marketing committee member

All individuals must realize their implication in racial injustice. This was the message emphasized by keynote speaker, Tim Wise, at the Fourth Racial Justice Summit hosted on November 9 by the YWCA, Tim Wise, like the Multicultural Leadership Program, understands the importance of shared interest and how those interests are converging.

The perceptions that individuals have depend largely on their race, because the color of their skin often depicts their treatment and experiences within society. A person’s race is one of the factors that creates their lens—in other words, how they view the world and themselves. According to Wise, people of color are aware of how others feel about them and often develop a more accurate perception in terms of how other countries/cultures view Americans. Wise used the example of the common question “why do they hate us,” stating that majority of people are under the false belief that “they hate us for our freedom.” Other countries do not hate Americans for their freedom, but rather for political, social, or economic reasons.  Furthermore, Wise discussed the various misconceptions that are assumed about minorities due to lack of familiarity and knowledge. Language is captivating because of the various meanings and ideas that can be created; however, language can also serve as a barrier between people.
Additionally, experience and identity shape meaning. While minorities are required to know about white culture, white people do not have to know about minority circumstance and communities. There is the mutual understanding among the majority that some people are underserved, no coincidence that these underserved people are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Indians. Wise argues that individuals are not underserved, but they are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against.

The summit continued and the group was broken up into two caucuses. I participated in the people of color caucus, where individuals discussed their personal experiences of being oppressed and discriminated against. Together the group developed a definition for racism. Additionally, individuals discussed the importance of addressing racism or social injustices head on, and not allowing incidents to go unnoticed or unaddressed. 

The two caucuses reconvened in the auditorium and discussed important topics and ideas that were brought up in their individual groups. Overall, through the summit individuals gained new perspectives and knowledge about injustice in our community. 

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