Imagine you are in a coffee shop enjoying your morning energy booster, when an unfamiliar person approaches you and asks, “Do you consider yourself a racist?”. Yes, you would be in shock and in state of confusion, but most importantly how would you answer this question? How do you know if you are or aren’t racist? Are you even aware of what being a racist means? Or what is race? These are questions that are well explained in Ijeoma Oluo’s 2018 collection of essays, So You Want to Talk About Raceand in John Biewen and guest Chenjerai Kumanyika’s 2017 podcasts Scene on Radio: Seeing White. These pieces of work dive in to the ideas of racism within complex racial interactions and racism in regard to the individual and the structural system.
Ijeoma Oluo starts us off with the idea of social interactions and the many ways in which people carry out ineffective conversations. In day to day life, people of different backgrounds are not often involved in social conversations regarding race or racial dilemmas such as racial oppression of minority races, but when they do occur they most often wind up badly. Many people who aren’t of color in large part try to avoid these types of conversation because they don’t feel comfortable and most often dismiss the topic by saying “It is not my place.. I don’t really feel comfortable” (Oluo 4). By doing this we are avoiding the uncomfortable conversations and not advancing, we need to step out of our comfort zone in order to learn how to talk to one another without offended and miscommunicating our opinions. Many might disregard people of color complaints on racist experiences by not believing that they are truly racist, but if a non-person of color claims that something is not racist, is it truly their call to say what is racist or not? Oluo simply explains how to know if complex situations are racist or not by providing a simple checklist. The author does an outstanding job of simplifying how as a society we can have more effective conversations and understand race in regards, to racism through day to day interactions.
John Biewen’s Turning the Lensepisode Seeing Whiteperfectly captures the idea that racism does not only occur in daily interactions. It is heavily influenced by outside dominant pressures similarly these pressures could be a form of racial dictatorship. Guest speaker Chenjeri Kumanyika speaks on racism in regard to the overall population perfects, he says that “racism is like a disease and the overwhelming puzzle to solve is who has it”(Kumanyika). Though this form is tinking is incorrect because racism needs to be approached through structural creation sense, in which the question of why many people share this common idea, and who is the influencer. In the second episode How Was Race Madethe idea that “race isn’t real biologically but is real in the way society has been structured and the effects of race as a social contract”(Biewen) is introduced. Society is organized and structured in a way that makes race one of the leading components of action.
Race was made a part of the hegemony of this country, whether we like it or not and it’s one of the reasons why individual racism is prominent today. Racism is silenced in not only daily conversation, but in politics and individuals such as; Ijeoma Oluo, John Biewen and Chenjeri Kumanyika. They are bringing awareness through their work until racism is declared in the world. I chose these two pieces of work to demonstrate the two ideas of racism in an individual level and racism in a structural level. These two ideas at times can contradict themselves. When further analyzed from an outside perspective it can be observed that Structural and racial formation are the causes of individual daily interactive racism.
Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race. Seal Press, 2018.
Biewen, John, host. “Turning the Lens.” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 15 Feb 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-31-turning-the-lens-seeing-white-part-1/
Biewen, John, Host. “How Race Was Made” Seeing White, Scene on Radio, 1 Mar 2017. http://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-32-how-race-was-made-seeing-white-part-2/