Right when I almost forget: Race

Muderi Aradi
Poughkeepsie, NY

Race to me is how authorities in an environment define aesthetic population differences, in ignorance to the vast continuum of intermediates that may lie outside of the smaller environment. Knowledge or acknowledgement of these intermediates would immediately add a confusion and invalidation to the narrow definitions. In a similar way, knowledge or acknowledgment of truths about vast exceptions to constructed racial stereotypes would also breach racial constructions. In slightly different words, it is a small world organizational feature that lacks a total data that would then immediately invalidate it.
Racism to me is any categorically assumptive tool that can devalue, discredit and/or eventually dehumanizes the labeled racial subject based on these hand-made definitions. In present-day America it takes the form of a national and inner-personal consciousness that places an automatic, mindless favor towards this attitude.

In my life racism is something that I am lucky to be able to forget about at times, but when it appears it feels more demoralizing than it would if I were constantly bombarded with it. My racial encounters have been particular to my extreme minority status as an ethnic African in predominantly white populations; subtle, indirect, and hard to fully comprehend past emotional response upon occurrence. From the start of elementary school, I felt structural isolation in a form of exceptionalism due to my teachers’ (shows) of surprise at my academic performance as a minority. A defining example was when I got 100% on a vocabulary test in fifth grade, and my teacher lauded, “You must have worked very hard!” In reality, I had not worked that hard at all to earn the good grade, and I perceived her disrespectful attribution of labor over intelligence. Neighbors, and parents of my close friends, would eventually repeat in this peculiar attribution. Many similar subtle racist events pervaded my experiences and those of my first generation family. I view these many events as a microcosm of how structural racism eventually conquers a group in society, and in this way view the success of structural racism as a composite of many small accumulating parts. I also perceive the most detrimental effects of racism in the gray area of ambiguity, in wondering whether my father, mother, brother or myself would have been better (and in what ways) if the proverbial fifth grade teacher hadn’t projected that we “worked very hard”.

 

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