Prejudice, as taught to you by society

 

By Alex McNab

Fifty years ago, black people fighting to be equal to their white counterparts were sprayed by police with fire hoses. One month ago, Occupy Wall Street protesters fighting for equality to their upper class counterparts were sprayed by police with fire hoses.

Fifty years ago, black people fighting to be equal to their white counterparts were sprayed by police with fire hoses. One month ago, Occupy Wall Street protesters fighting for equality to their upper class counterparts were sprayed by police with fire hoses.

The history books have us believe racism ended when “separate but equal” was abolished and women were on the same level as men when they were given the right to vote and work outside of their homes. These assumptions are wrong.

Today, a woman who is just as qualified for a position as a man is still less likely to get the job because she is a woman, and, if she is accepted, she will most likely receive a lower salary than a male in the same position. The system is flawed, and the police are still spraying those brave enough to say something about it.

At the 18th annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference, 1,500 students from independent schools across the nation congregated in Philadelphia from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3 to discuss the “–isms” still present within today’s society. Mazelle Etessami ’14, Malanna Wheat ’14 and I represented Harvard-Westlake at the conference, which was hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools.

At the conference, five pieces of paper were taped on the walls, each with the name of a different race. The students were given markers and told to write the first thing that came to mind when they read the name of the race on the sheet of paper.

The words “cracker”, “n****r” and “terrorist” were written in big letters visible from across the room, and then the sheets were taken down, and two others were put up. These papers had the words “man” and “woman” on them and a rectangle drawn in the center of each page. Again, the students were told to put the first word that came to mind when they thought of a man or woman and put it in the rectangle. “B***h,” “slut,” “housewife.” “Strong,” “dominant,” “big ego.” Next, the students were asked to write what words came to mind when they thought of a man or a woman who did not fit the words in the rectangle, and they were asked to write these words outside of the rectangle. “Tomboy,” “d**e,” “lesbian.” “F****t,” “p***k,” “lil punk b***h.”

Although the students were appalled at the words written on the walls around them, they had written them. None of the students were racists or sexists or homophobes, so why had they written these hateful words?

The facilitators of the group explained they were victims of a cycle of oppression, and that society had instilled within them an internalized oppression which had caused them to write “cracker” while their white friend was finishing the “r” on “n****r” right next to them.

The students did not really believe the words they had written, but the constant societal repetition of these terms had caused them to be forever in the students’ thoughts.

People are products of their society. American society has caused 1,500 bright young men and women to write the word “n****r” on a wall, showing that America has made little progress since the Civil Rights Movement.

Rodney Glasgow, one of the directors of the conference, said, “Barack Obama is the first black president, but we still have not had a president descended from slaves — just keep that in mind.”

 

* Although students at conference wrote the full words, the Chronicle edited them.

 

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