A while ago, one of my group meetings broke out into a spontaneous discussion about race and racism. Somewhere toward the end, I said something to the effect of discussing this stuff is pointless and will go nowhere because we are not discussing the issue against the same definition. After reading the follow up to Vickie Chang’s article in the OC Weekly, I’m beginning to see why.
Everyone experiences race and racism in a different context which is inspired by their social class, education, where they grew up, etc. Contrary to what I believed in before, I now think each of our experiences with race and racism is valid- whether it runs from the tacky diversity poster inspired ideology to dogma from the Nation of Islam. How can you argue with what you expreience and see in front of you everyday? If that’s how you feel, then that’s how you feel.
However, the interesting thing is when these difference match up in those discussions. It seems like we are very insecure about giving up on our experience or interpretation of race and racism to considre another one. These things are so personal, it makes sense that people would act this way. So, what happens in these discussions is we spend all our time trying to convince each other to believe in our respective realities. That’s not productive. So to become more productive, like minded people get together to push the issue amongst themselves. But that’s not productive either because they’re pushing an issue that affects everyone with having everyone there for input.