Why invisible racism is so invisible?
Working on the topic of invisible racism (or everyday racism, microracism or modern racism) is not an easy task. On the daily basis you meet with resistance, undermining the problem, tons of excuses, or simply lack of interest in the topic. And hey, what to do if something does matter for you so much and you truly believe that it needs to be in the public agenda all the time, but seems like those feelings are not shared?
So we decided to analyze what are the factors that makes invisible racism so invisible, and hopefully with this knowledge we will be able to address better this issue.
6 factors why we don´t see racism
Our societies are created in the way that if something is considered normal, there is an unwritten permission of doing it, and we don´t question that the things could be different, we only realize it from the perspective of the time. Just look at the example of voting rights of women. 200 years ago women didn´t have voting rights and no one was bothered by this, why? Because it was normalized.
So what happens with racist jokes, that we all laugh about, stereotyping people based on their skin color, finding foreign looking women exotic, or making and sharing memes about black men and his big penis? All those things form part our culture and norms (yes there are exceptions but we will not go over there), and often we are not conscious of their existence. Therefore, as a consequence if those topics are being brought up we defend ourselves and look for excuses.
Ambiguity in this case means that we cannot now for sure, and that the case of possible racism we are analysing can be racism but not necessarily, usually depending on the context. The best example is the classical case of not willing to sit next to certain people in the bus. This case is often experienced by Muslim women wearing hijab, and black people (most probably more, but for those I personally heard the most). They often experience rejection due to the fact that people don´t want to sit next to them, often if the bus is full, some prefer to stand then sit next to them, or people change places if any other sit in the bus becomes free, etc.
What happens, clearly this is invisible racism because we tend to profile people, and which sits in the bus will be empty. On the other hand, maybe not 100% of the people who doesn’t want to sit next to certain people, do it based on racial prejudices. It can be few people who simply have a back pain and the process of sitting down is too painful, so they prefer to stand…
As we see from the example, the ambiguity is quite dangerous because it is very easy to find arguments that this is not racism, since definitely not always is, just in majority of the cases, on the other hand the person will get reassured that there is something ¨wrong¨ with him or her, because again no one wants to set next to them.
The consequences doesn´t seem very harmful
How often do we hear - ¨It was just a joke¨, ¨You should not take the things that seriously¨, ¨why don´t you relax¨. I don´t agree it is serious stuff, because you can relax and take it easy once or twice, after 6 months you will be already seriously bothered by this, and blaming yourself that you didn´t say anything before, and after a year your self-esteem will be down. The consequences of invisible racism can be serious, both physical and mental. I recommend you to read the article about microaggressions to learn more about the consequences.
The consequences are not immediate
In our activities we do one very simple activity, we ask people to think about one privilege that is important for them (you can think along), like having friends, self-esteem, money, house, right to practice religion or freedom of expression, or anything else important for you. Then think how would you feel and what would happen with you if someone would take it from you for one day… And the final step is to think how would you feel and what would happen with you if someone would take it for three years. The more you think the more consequences you will find, since there is really a lot of them.
And here comes as well the factor of invisible racism that the consequences are not coming fast, if they are not coming fast you can as well correlate them with the different life events, not only racist incidents, and in general we don´t care. Sad but true
Society tends to minimize the consequences based on their own experiences
We already has established that the topic is very complicated:) So what happens with the cases when the person exercising invisible racism is relating to their personal experiences and saying that if I didn´t feel bad, other won´t as well. Let´s take again the racist jokes, how many of us laugh at them, told them, normalized them? And I believe that for many of us it was not a traumatic experience.
So let´s point out the problem, firstly we have already established that the consequences are usually coming long term, secondly micro racism, as all the other micro-aggressions are frequent/regular. Meaning if we talk about the person from the majority group experiencing once or twice micro-aggression, can assume that their consequences are the same as of others. If we will talk about the person from minority group, who needs to stand up to comments, gestures, and actions which are telling him/her, they are a ¨worse category¨, it is already something different.
It is very easy to minimize the consequences based on our own experience, but please be careful, because most of the times you might be compare experiences that cannot be compared.
Invisible racism is not recognized as harmful as racism
The study on invisible racism is still in the early stage, and although there are a lot of articles and experiments done, some very interesting conclusions taken, there is still much to do. Firstly, there is very little people who knows what invisible racism is, then we have seen that this type of racism is undermined. And in my opinion it needs to change.
Invisible racism is already reality, which you can work in order to do prevention of racism, work the attitudes, and in this way prevent of the direct forms of racism. As well we don´t know which racism is more harmful, there are some articles that indicated that invisible racism is as harmful as classical forms of racism, and others stating that is more harmful, that classical forms of racism.
My conclusion from all what I have read is that invisible racism is harmful enough to take it seriously, to keep learning and reading more about it, to keep involving the communities which normally suffers from racism into the action plan, to raise awareness in our societies, and to MAKE INVISIBLE RACISM VISIBLE.
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