In one of my recent posts I mention racism; one of the ugliest notions in the collective of the human psyche. I have always felt distaste for racism in any form, not only because of the evil nature of it but also for how idiotic it is.
No intelligent person can in his or her right mind be a racist. Yet I could name you some very intelligent people who are – or have been – guilty of racism in our modern times and in history. (Life is strange.)
There are two quick points I wish to make. One is that humanity is one race of sentient beings with the ability to clearly conceptualize abstract thinking and convey that thinking to other living beings, in present and future. The second is that we are not there yet; while we divide ourselves according to nationality, tribe, color and language (culture).
What can I say? The human being is a complicated being!
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be proud of your nationality, tribe, color or language (culture). On the contrary, when you’re proud of who you are you are also proud of the streaks that made you. I’m very proud of those streaks in the Icelandic history and culture which are remarkable. Therefore I’m proud of the same streaks in me when they’re apparent or contributing to who I am.
The streaks I’m not proud of are streaks I’m cognitively taking part in reshaping or refining, in order to transform them. This is what self empowerment means. It means that you identify what is in your make which you can be proud of and you build from there.
The technique works in a subtly different way from self improvement, which identifies your weak points and tries to polish them away. In self empowerment you identify your weak points, in order to be aware of them and therefore lessening their impact on you.
Meanwhile you empower and work on your strong – or positive – points and empower them. This means that you begin to ignore your weak points – but not being unaware of them – until they begin to shrink and fade or lose their grips on you.
When this technique is applied to racism it works in the following way: You begin to identify beauty, strength and qualities, in other races or nationalities in order to admire them and respect them. Meanwhile you do the same about yours and you strengthen the agenda of harmony and cooperation through mutual respect and admiration.
Self empowerment vs. Self improvement: Driving to a destination or enjoying the journey?
All the while you keep in mind that two individuals with different qualities, when harmonized and unified, can display tremendous strength, spiritually, intellectually and physically.
I have for a long time felt a little sorry for some of our well educated and modern cultures when they use self improvement – which actually enforces your weaknesses – instead of self empowerment. I’ll show you an example of what I mean.
In the United States of America there has been a trend for a couple of decades to use the term “African American” when referring to black people. This is fine by itself because of the history of slavery in that country and also because of a long tradition of discrimination which the nation is trying to eradicate.
Yet at the same time, only black people are allowed to say the words “black people”.
White people are not allowed to use color as an adjective, but black people are allowed this. Also there is rarely used the term “Hispanic American” or “Caucasian American” when referring to other US races than the black race.
Therefore the color discrimination goes subtly on. The moment the nation begins to transform this, and all races are denied to use color-adjectives and when they put “Definition American” for all races they will begin to see this: They’ll all become “American” within a decade, not because of the word but because they’ll begin to think about this more positively.
I realize that empirically I know nothing about what it is to be a person of race in American society, I only know the movies and while movies can show you food you cannot taste it. I’m only writing from my narrow minded Icelandic perspective. Yet a long time ago I heard a story which made me think about racism and gender equality on more positive terms than before. A story which made me realize that we must see humanity as a family first and not races:
Three human relations agents – a man, a woman and a black woman – were discussing the topics of feminism, gender equality and racism. The man felt that they were taking things a bit seriously, that surely we (society) had already moved on from past discrimination. He stated that when hiring personnel he considered the person and not the identities and adjectives.
The black woman asked the man “what do you see when you look in a mirror?” A person he said proudly. Then the black woman asked the other woman the same question and she answered “a female person.” Then she explained to them that while they could not identify with what it is being a “black female person” when looking in the mirror, they could not truthfully answer these questions.
I admit that it’s been years since I read this short story and I feel that I don’t explain it justly, or at least less powerfully as when I read it. I’ve forgotten how it was phrased, but the content is clear. While you don’t see the person but the adjective, you don’t see the person.
A man will always see a man in the mirror, a woman will always see a woman in the mirror and while we use the term of race to describe other people, we will see “person of particular race” in the mirror. And unless a white male in western society doesn’t use his mind to place him self in the mirror he can say what he believes he should say but his mind will still be colored.
I live in a country which is predominantly white and of the Germanic family of nations. The Icelandic nation is Scandinavian in origins, a little bit mixed with Celtic or Irish genes. The nation speaks one of the oldest of the Germanic languages and is proud if this heritage, particularly our language. People of color are not common in our country and are usually treated with open curiosity; because they’re uncommon and racism isn’t so common in Iceland, yet it exists.
A year ago an old friend, who is Icelandic, dropped in for coffee. She brought her son with her, who is a masculine and powerful young man in his early thirties. I had not seen him since he was seven years old. It was a good moment we all had, discussing lots of things and among topics our nationality and culture.
I’m very proud of this young man and admire him for various reasons. He made me particularly proud when the topic of our history and the roots of our culture came up. For he speaks better language than I do (I’m known for excellence in using Icelandic) and he knew our story and our myths as well as I do (I have studied these subjects and written extensively about them) and he expressed dismay over his peers who don’t know what being Icelandic means.
For he is as Icelandic as they come.
Yet he’s black and it hurts him almost daily that white Icelanders who don’t even know their history, and hardly know how to compose proper speech, treat him as a black outlander. They see the skin, not the person.
The moral is the same as in the story I mentioned earlier. When you see culture from a stronger standpoint, you don’t know what it is to be discriminated against. We have to make a conscious effort to place ourselfs in the situation the other person is forced to experience – or suffer.
WE have to make a conscious effort to move our mind around. A moving mind is a thinking mind, a rigid mind isn’t. And we also have to be open to hear what people have to say, becose a mind who isn’t placed in a situation where it can be nudged by other people tends to become rigid – mine as well as anyones.
One has to be constantly alert.
You cannot know anyone, not even yourself, if you only see the surface of people. When you begin to “see others” rather than “observe others” you’ll begin to know what respect means, which is the root of love; love at least for yourself.