I mean, that’s true, isn’t it? Even when we don’t mean to be, racism just kind of inherently happens because stereotypes exist, and we as a society bow down to them, and then we start to think we’re right.
Stereotypes come from somewhere — they have to — so the argument, I suppose, is that they hold within them some iota of truth. And while that may be the case, over-generalizing an entire group of people, whether by ethnicity, country of origin, religion, or political stance, is something we should probably all avoid. Even if a study were done that proved it to be true in 98% of all cases, there would still be that 2% proving it is not a blanket theory.
So Mexicans slough at work, Blacks kill police officers, Asians are good at math, Indians may actually be computers in human form, and White people are gun-toting patriots.
I’m going to go ahead and just dispel any idea that Asians are good at math because I am quite terrible at it (in recent years, I’ve become a math atheist. And I know, I know, you’re wondering what it ever did to me and why I’m bearing a grudge, but it’s far easier to not acknowledge its existence than let it ruin my life). I do not play the violin. I’m pretty lazy and lack self-discipline. I speak one language, and I don’t eat rice on a regular basis (because, you know, carbs are bad for you *insert eye roll here*).
There’s this misconception that, so long as it’s “positive,” it’s not racist. And it’s true that not all stereotypes are racist, but for the most part, all racism is stereotypical. I belong to a group of individuals who are often viewed as the superior minority — my people work hard and apply themselves. Except for, you know, the ones who don’t, but they’re in the minority of the minority and simply do not count. When you say to me, “You must be good at math,” don’t snow yourself into thinking what you said wasn’t actually racist because *sighs* it was. Offensive? Not particularly, until I start thinking about the racism aspect, but I realize you could say far worse things to me, so I suppose I should count my blessings that I belong to the most worthwhile race.
By the way, not all Asians work hard. *raises hand* I slept in till 11:30 today and didn’t get out of bed for two hours.
I feel like I need to also say something on the matter of racism in humor. Look, a few of my favorite stand-up comedians are kings and queens of self-deprecating humor relating to their ethnicities and countries of origin. We could probably argue all day long as to whether that humor is a good outlet to deal with the duality of being a minority in America or a negative impact on an entire race because it’s feeding into the stereotypes. I personally consider it the former, although I’ve heard some that not only stepped into the latter but actually jumped in head first, and then it was no longer amusing to me. And unfair though it may be to you, it’s just more acceptable for minorities to joke about, you know, being minorities.
Otherwise, racism in humor is awkwardly uncomfortable to me. If something is both funny and racist, the take away from that ultimately should be that it’s racist, and it just shouldn’t ever be uttered. Really nothing should ever trump racism. When I was in high school, I was working on a group project with some friends. One white boy, one white girl, one black boy, and myself, so like … AMERICA! Somehow the topic of funny racist jokes came up (I feel like it must have been jokes at first and then treaded into the uncomfortable place of racism), and after the white boy told one particularly offensive “joke” involving the n-word (he actually said it right there in front of my friend, Marvin, and I don’t recall how he reacted, but I was none too pleased), my friend (I’m just going to spoil the ending for you and let you know the relationship ended upon utterance of this joke) said, “No offense, Mary, but …”
I’m going to give you a brief lesson on how to be a decent human. If you must begin anything with the words “no offense,” then you really shouldn’t say it ever at all under any circumstances. You are openly admitting that you are a fool because 1. you know you shouldn’t say it, 2. you’re admitting you know it, and 3. you’re doing it anyhow. Seriously, that makes you suck at humanhood.
The rest was, “… What do you say to an Asian you see in the hall? …*insert the most uncomfortable silence known to man* … I CHINK I GOT SOME GOOK IN MY EYE!”
So, I mean, like I said, the friendship died a fiery death right then and there. One racial epithet is more than enough, two is just gratuitous.
The problem is, I know what her line of thinking was — as an adoptee, I’m considered by many friends and acquaintances to essentially not be Asian. And while I am certainly not interested in Korean culture, the fact that I was born in Asia to parents of Asian descent and a long line of Asian ancestors makes me, ahem, Asian. I can’t really alter that. But because of this non-Asianness, I am somehow immune to all things racist? (I do pose this as a question because it baffles me still.) I may watch the Super Bowl and eat pizza and listen to Adele while wearing leggings (I draw the line at Uggs, although I bought some seriously cute leg warmers today), but … still Asian. Still going to be offended by racist comments.
It happens, accidental (and intentional) racism. And whether or not you believe race is something created by society to separate us and we’re all just humans gosh darnit, it’s here to stay. I doubt we’ll ever truly be able to get away from it. (Also, I think that’s a really stupid argument and sounds like something a white person would say to seem relevant to his ethnic “peeps”.) What’s important, however, is how mindful we are on a daily basis, how hard we try to be thoughtful and kind and to ignore all the stereotypes, allowing ourselves to simply learn about those around us.