“If you speak out, speak out ethically!” Remi Kanazi eloquently stated at the Night of Poetic Justice. His stern demeanor ingrained that simple statement into my memory. In that moment, the indistinct line between subtle racism, commonly expressed as comedy in the form of stereotypes, and blatant racism had been swept away and clearly redrawn in permanent marker: racism is racism. No loopholes. No exceptions.
The twenty-first century American society has been desensitized to the nuances of racism and has adapted them into the functions and interactions of daily life. Statements such “racism does not exist anymore” and “racism has died out” are ignorant. A friend once said, “People think that they need to be active members of the KKK in order to be considered as racist.”
Traditional racism, or what society typically associates with racism such as the KKK, has died out, but racism that continues follow us a population and has intrinsically become who we are. Racism has hid itself in our manner of speech and actions that we do not even recognize it anymore. It has become something that is not condemned but condoned.
This subtle racism can be defined as microaggressions; socially constructed identities that place the offender with the power of privilege. The frequent comments and jokes reinforcing false stereotypes while laying the foundation for microaggressions are deemed acceptable for humor brings people together. Regardless of the intent behind those comments and jokes, we cannot advocate against racism when we are subconsciously pushing it forward.
When the subconscious becomes conscious, people refuse to admit and believe that they, a member of the twenty-first century, has committed the crime of being racist. The conflict of values is not limited to racism, but also to issues regarding sex, gender, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and any other –ism. The question is: how is our society representing fundamental human rights, equality, and social justice when our everyday mannerisms oppose all of that?