Week 2: Going Deeper: Internalized Racism, White Supremacy Culture & Intervention (LONG LONG LONG)
Today’s writing uses this source: on Internalizations. My thoughts on the topics in the source, by order of appearance.
A. Four Foundations of Racism. These are all real. A1. Construction Racist Oppression and A2. Internalized Inferiority both affect People of Color. I’ve seen in happen and it’s happened to me outside of Iowa. A3. White Privilege and A4. Internalized White Superiority both affect White People. I have seen this happen. Because I grew up in a White family at a time when all the ‘boat people’ arrived in Iowa, I have mixed feelings about White Privilege. Because I was typically accompanied by White family members speaking excellent English, I am very sure that I received the benefits of White Privilege. I remember a Vietnamese family that our church adopted were fascinated by preschool me and I loved having their attention.
Regarding White Superiority, I think especially about my former spouse because he has a degree of internalized white superiority. Having half Asian children definitely affected his thinking once he took the time to think about it. This is where I think most White people feel horrible — they never consider race because they are surrounded by White Privilege and as children, we don’t choose to be in that situation. As children who are just forming beliefs, we don’t choose our family members and their attitudes. We copy family members and their behaviors and carry them into adulthood.
So when a census worker came by our house and asked for racial identification of each individual, my former spouse was extra surprised at being forced to select a race. It happened again when someone at the front door asked about “an Asian woman who lived here.” (He had no idea that he was married to an Asian woman for many, many minutes, which is ideal, but also weird and not ideal.) He felt left out as he aged, so he attempted a few times to say he was ethnic White (usually reserved for Eastern Europeans, Irish, and Italian descendants, but that didn’t work because he had/has no strong Western European identity.). My girls and I thought it was a nice gesture and appreciated his struggle. But alas, in these recent years, he’s moved far away from the struggle and deeper into superiority. Three of my kids have mentioned sadness and frustration about this. I tell them that maybe an alien took over his body in 2016 (we split in late 2015).
How do I combat White Superiority? I try to encourage curiosity rather than fear. Empathy can be another way to combat it, but I think it’s more difficult to sell to White People.
B. Internalized Racist Oppression (IRO) is real. When I internalize all the stereotypes that surround me and they become my belief system, then I have IRO. This is a very current topic in Hollywood. I wrote about my brief spell of hating white people as a child here. I cannot recall another time when I experienced this. I have seen white people of all ages adopt IRO and I think it occurs because they are unable to express whatever dissatisfaction in their lives in another way. As a teacher, I saw it every now and then in students, so I encouraged curiosity and “what if’s” to them.
I have almost always had a very high sense of self-esteem, so I don’t think I have been a slave to this system. (Thanks, Grandma.)
C. The Self System. C1. Mental (Self Concept) C2. Spiritual (Self Esteem) C3. Physical (Self Image) C4. Emotional (Self Love). These four aspects of well-being need to be balanced in a person. When many people are together, they create community well-being. This requires honesty and I don’t know that I have the patience to think it all through.
D Combines D1. Negative messages: B + C I’ve seen this in my own BPD groups (usually but not always unrelated to racism), and thinking back to my “I hate blond people” days, I would say that the IRO + Self system = confusion and could lead to anger, inferiority, and avoidance.
D2. Positive messages: A3 + A4 + C As stated above, I’ve seen my former spouse live this. Examining what my kids say when we converse and work out their issues, I would say that for him, racial superiority + the Self system = blame, ignorance, and isolation.
It would be great to see skin color as normal and equal rather than superior. We can’t control what color we’re born, but we can control how we think and act.
[I also want to throw in that I’ve seen a lot of patriarchy and superiority in Iowa’s beekeeping world, and it’s about new vs. old and not about race. Same roots: fear of innovation, lack of curiosity and openness. There may also be roots of sexism and ageism.]