Conversation can conquer ignorance and conditioning
America woke up, fought a hard uphill battle and achieved political change. Then it seems some decided to take a nap or become indifferent to the war that continues to rage against racism. The battle for social change has taken far too long and produced far too few results.
The alarm that rang loud enough to wake those in slumber came in the form of the shot that took Trayvon Martin’s life. The sad fact that cultural stereotypes ended in such a tragedy points out a huge flaw in our society. Melanie Tannenbaum states in a recent article for Scientific American, “When you grow up in a culture that endorses certain stereotypes, they become ingrained in your cultural knowledge.”
Maybe this is an explanation for what happened in the Martin case, but it is certainly no justification for George Zimmerman’s shooting the innocent youth. It is a shame we have stereotypes in this country that can lead to acts like this or the racist comments that are appearing more frequently in social media.
The homophobic, racist and sexist tweets made by a would-be student leader on campus remind us of the urgent necessity of social change here on campus and in the rest of the world.
The tweets that appeared after the release of the film “The Hunger Games” also revealed some long-held stereotypes. One person tweeted wondering why all the good characters were played by black actors. The consistency of these numerous slurs chipped away another piece of the frail understanding of interracial relations today. Comedy can be used to help ease feelings of interracial tension, but it shouldn’t be used to cover up racism.
The common stereotypes held about the black community, along with many other groups, speaks to how our society conditions individuals. When Americans assume that an individual of Middle Eastern descent to be inherently dangerous, or suspect a Latin American to be an illegal immigrant, is a testament to our conditioning. We need to take the initiative to learn about others to eliminate the ignorance and stereotyping.
In many respects, Pepperdine does an excellent job at exposing its students to international cultures, but the University leaves much to be desired in how students are exposed to and educated about the different cultures in the United States. Young people throw themselves behind organizations and causes like Kony 2012 or other aid projects, but need to bring huge awareness to the issues in their own backyard. Americans need to deal with race relations and move toward change in the country and on this very campus.
One of the ways to learn about the cultures of those around us is to actually hold meaningful conversations. If there isn’t an environment that facilitates these kinds of conversations, then no progress will be made. Although the convos about issues like interracial dating are taking a step in the right direction, there is still much to be done. They continue to skirt around the real issues that need to be discussed. Asking the tough, awkward questions will be the only way to initiate communication and move past de facto segregation. Because looking around the Waves Cafe, it is painfully clear that de facto segregation still exists.
Open and meaningful conversations will help to bring understanding, which will move society closer to being racism free. Social media can bring about change just as swiftly and powerfully as racism and intolerance are spread through it now. It is a lethal weapon in the arsenal to fight racism and intolerance. Now is the time to take a more active approach in rallying for an end to racism.