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Blog Posted in avatar   Tamara Aspeling's Blog

What is racism?

By Tamara Aspeling
Posted Sep 25, 2012 in Politics
There's something that I am struggling with in Canada - the colour blindness.
Don't get me wrong - I think it's fabulous that people all just live together, with equal rights and responsibilities, and that they all see themselves as Canadian.
It's just that, as a South African, it's ingrained to describe people by race.
If you've lived in the country, you will know that there has never been a time - under the apartheid regime and under the ANC's Newpartheid - that South Africans haven't been pigeonholed according to race.
Fill in any form (particularly any one for employment, or involved in any way in government) and you are likely to be asked to define your race.
South Africans don't see themselves as just South Africans. We see ourselves as white South Africans, coloured South Africans, black South Africans and Indian South Africans. It's been drummed into us since 1946, and it hasn't changed since 1994.
The thing is, however, that I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
I like to think that one day, we'll all be able to call each other black, white, coloured, Asian or anything else without it being immediately seen as racist.
That we will all realise that race is a trait - like eye colour, hair colour or height, and that no one will feel a pang of guilt or feel afraid to mention race.
The way I see it, the only reason that can't happen is that because deep down, in some subconscious part of many people, there ARE racial stereotypes that they won't admit to.
When they hear anything about that race, their minds automatically jump to their own preconceived notions and prejudice, and they tack their own racist notions onto what you are saying. It's how a simple statement that mentions skin colour or other racial traits becomes racist in their minds.
There's a big difference in my opinion.
If you use ethnicity as a description - on par with traits like height or eye colour, or traits like kind, arrogant or proud, then it is not a definition. Essentially, it's the difference between making blanket assumptions about every member of that race, and simply noting ethnicity.
The bottom line is EVERYONE is an individual, and they should be judged as individuals. I am not racist simply because I am a white South African. Even if every other white South African was (and they're not, believe me) my uniqueness means that you cannot apply that statement to me simply because of the colour of my skin or where I am from. That in itself is racist.
Until the world stops treating race like something that should be ignored, and starts treating it as just another of the things that make us who we are, we're never going to get past this huge stumbling block in the path to evolution in consciousness.
I am white. I am tall. I am a woman. I am South African. I am tired of being branded a racist because I use race as a descriptive term.
Stop pretending race doesn't exist. Embrace it. It's what makes us different. It's another layer in the vast tapestry that makes us what we are, and makes life interesting. It's a description. It's not a definition. Mentioning race does not make you racist - although refusing to mention it hints that you may harbour some less than fair preconceptions about a particular race group.
If you see it as anything else, then perhaps it's you, not me, who has the problem?

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