Racism Impedes Progress

AMES, Iowa— The Association of Malaysian Students (AMSISU) at Iowa State University gathered on Monday, Sept. 5, 2011 to celebrate New Merdeka-Raya.  Merdeka and Raya are two celebrations. The “New” looks to recognize the recruitment of new members for AMSISU. “Merdeka” celebrates Malaysia’s independence from Britain. “Raya” is for the significance of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

This celebration fosters cultural understanding. All members of the Ames community were invited to attend. I was warmly offered food and conversation, and vision into routes for diminishing the degradation of human potential-racism.

Do you experience racism everyday? I experience white privilege. I am a white, middle class, 21 year old.  I grew up in Des Moines, attending Hoover High School. I was raised with diversity. Yet, I was still plagued with ignorance. I did not speak with someone about their true daily experience as a minority until I was one year into college.

What is the definition of race, of racism?

: a breeding stock of animals
a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics
a: an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also: a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group b: breed c: a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits
obsolete: inherited temperament or disposition
: distinctive flavor, taste, or strength”
“: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
: racial prejudice or discrimination”, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

“Anthropology and Contemporary World Problems” at the University of Iowa taught that race is a human cultural construct.

When the human genome was first decoded in 2000, it was emphasized that the DNA of any two people is at least 99 percent the same, according to  “In DNA Era, New Worries about Prejudice”.

The debate on what race means is conflicted.  What I intend to address are the falsehoods that are afflicting our society, and how we can stop this behavior.

Moroni Torres was born in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico. He said hello to his new home in California at the age of 3.  He attends Iowa State University. He goes to class, full-time. He is training to be an EMT. He studies. He goes out on the weekends. He is called a dirty terrorist.

Torres decided to go for a walk on Welch Avenue in Ames, Iowa on a Saturday night. The typical drunken clamor was not present, but several college-aged students were milling about.

An SUV nearly backed into Torres.

“Watch where you’re going! Are you blind?” shouted Torres.

The driver jumped out of the SUV, intoxicated, rage in his eyes, fists clenched.

“How about you go blow something up you dirty Arab terrorist!” shouted the driver.

I attended a party in Ames, Iowa. I walked outside to an area where a cluster was gathered.  We started talking about music.  One mentioned an affinity for the rap genre.

“Once you get them all in a group, they get all riled up, and act bigger than everyone else,” claimed another party attendee.

“Can you clarify?” I asked.

“Niggers,” he replied.

Astrid Lederhaas attends Iowa State University as a sophomore studying engineering. She is a white, middle class 19 year old. Lederhaas was walking home with a friend on a Friday night in Ames.

“Hey, you guys should come sit on our porch,” shouted a voice, hidden by nightfall.

“No, thanks,” Lederhaas replied.

“It’s ok, you can come up, you are not black,” said the masked voice.

The year is 2011.  Members of society are using the defamatory language used to dehumanize during slavery, stereotypes threaten. Racism is ignorance that breeds on lies and hatred. No appearance of people is superior. No appearance of people entails a certain behavior, or intelligence.

Racism results in suffering for both parties. Those who discriminate lose an experience to learn, to make a potential valuable connection. Racism is the display of a base human action. Those who are entrenched in ignorance must be taught the reality of equality between all people if we truly hope for progress in humankind.

Go to cultural celebrations. Meet someone new, everyday. Learn.