Addressing Racism by Ignoring It This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 7, 2008
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, renowned scientist and geneticist James Watson recently left his post as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory after receiving criticism for racist comments. He apparently stated that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours whereas all the testing says not really.” This comment is not only discriminatory, but it has no scientific support whatsoever. So why did the media report the offensive remark? Giving attention to bigotry only strengthens racism.

To eliminate prejudice, we must reduce its impact. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I believe the best way to eradicate racism is to ignore it. Derogatory terms are a common form of racism that highlights cultural differences. Racial slurs do more than just ­attack a person emotionally; they further the existence of racism and discrimination.

Unlike humans and viruses, bigotry can survive
in our society even if nourishment only comes once every 50 days, months, or even years. In order to squash the hatred, we must eliminate it. Those who use racial slurs are obviously misguided, and feeding their insults with a reply does nothing but promote further prejudice. Lacking a response, racists don’t ­receive the negative attention (and achieve the ­intentional offense) they seek. I believe that over time, these reprobates will stop using derogatory terms, thus eliminating xenophobic language from common use.

While derogatory terms are often used to insult those of another race, when used within an ethnic group they can act as a culturally binding force. ­Unfortunately this also separates groups from one ­another, preventing positive interaction between races and feeding prejudice through group mentality. For example, in the song “Boyz in the Hood,” Eazy-E identifies his African-American friends as black (like him) using a name that is unacceptable for other cultures to use. This draws a dividing line between one ethnicity and those who they feel persecuted by.

Bill Cosby once noted, “If a white man falls off a chair drunk, it’s just a drunk. If a negro does, it’s the whole damn negro race.” Grouping people by ethni­city results in social segregation. Ultimately, segregation leads to discrimination as groups of culturally similar individuals shun those who are different. By ignoring ethnically binding terms and generalizations, individuals keep the channels of communication open with those of other cultures.

While the singling out of one culture by another often leads to racism, well-intentioned attempts at integration can also have this result. For example, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, affirmative action is defined as “positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded. When those steps ­involve preferential selection – selection on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity – affirmative action generates intense controversy.” While the intention of affirmative action – ­providing better opportunities to the historically oppressed – is positive, it identifies individuals on the basis of race, gender, and ethnicity. And singling out these groups isolates them.

The cultural barrier that affirmative action creates provides a domicile in which prejudice can breed. According to University of Michigan philosophy professor Carl Cohen, “Racial classifications have insidious long-term results: anger and envy flowing from rewards or penalties based on race; solidification of racial barriers and the encouragement of racial separatism; inappropriate entry of race into unrelated intellectual or economic matters; the indirect support of condescension and invidious judgments among ethnic groups – in sum, the promotion of all the conditions that produce racial disharmony and racial disintegration.” To eliminate these flaws of affirmative action, I believe the program must be boycotted until it is removed. We must break these cultural barriers if we ever hope to achieve racial equality.

However, there are conflicting methods for how these barriers should be broken. While some might fight racism by responding with equally hurtful remarks and actions, I believe the best solution is a different approach. Mahatma Gandhi once wrote, “[Non-violence] does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer, but it means the putting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant.” Opposing discrimination actively but nonviolently requires a high level of dedication and therefore renders a more successful result.

In order to abolish racism, our society must extinguish the embers of historical racial tension that live on through speech and actions. Every time a rapper refers to his friends using the “N” word or a person gets a job on the basis of affirmative action, discrimination receives a new breath of life. Instead of drawing attention to Watson’s bigoted comments, to derogatory terms, to the segregation of groups using racist words, or to affirmative action, we should focus on productive and positive elements of society. Racial injustice does nothing more than prevent humanity from achieving its full potential. Enlightenment sees no color, only truth.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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TheBirdman1014 said...
Nov. 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm
You will never combat something by ignoring it. Knowing that racism exists, yet doing nothing to stop it, leaves the world just as broken as it was the day you entered. To fight racism, you must directly provoke a discussion out of someone who makes a racial comment. Subtle racism exists because "minor" comments about race are left unquestioned, allowing people to continue to push the boundaries of what is, and is not, acceptable.
Mzzygr replied...
Feb. 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm
Exactly.  That's the problem.  Just like misogyny, homophobia or anything else, allowing things to continue doesn't help.  As well intentioned as it is, we don't have to act colorblind.  If it's not a bad thing to see that the sky is sometimes blue and the leaves change color in fall, it's not a bad thing to see that we all come in different shapes, sizes and colors and have different cultures, speak different languages and other things.  What Dr. Kin... (more »)
pageturner This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm
I agree and disagree with the article. By ignoring racist comments, it gives them less attention. But it shouldn't be completely ignored. I know a biracial couple who has public racist comments against them. That doesn't seem right, especially seeing as how some of the comments were directed on their daughter? I hate stereotyping. Good and bad isn't defined by color, it's defined by the person
princess6 said...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 11:35 am
I think that many people associate racism with African Americans but it happens to other ethnic groups as well I'm Mexican and people automaticcally assume that my family and I are illeagal immigrants...not true.
CLYIdontknow said...
Jul. 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm
I embrace racism against my own culture and ethnicity. I make a joke of it, I laugh about it and don't mind when others make fun of it. I know it may sound weird, but embracing racism is one way to fight it off. Then it won't be such a big deal anymore, but this method certainly doesn't go for all situations.
Nijuly93 replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm
CLYIdontknow: Racism isn't just talk. If you got stabbed becuase of your race, would you embrace it? What if you couldn't buy a house becuase of your race? Would you just laugh about it? 
KCGarza said...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

I think this is very well written, but I personally disagree. I think that racism is ingrained in some people through their own culture, and ignoring it does nothing to eradicate it. I live in the South, and though we have made great progress in racial equality, there is still a lot of blatant racism. I have heard some people point-blank say, "I just don't like black people", and other people around them just nod in a sort of vague, "Yeah-I-know-what-you-mean" attitude. Letting comments like ... (more »)

the_Horsegirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm
This is incredibally well written and reasoned. Good job.
Maryon123 said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 11:23 pm
As long as there is more than once race, nationality, and ethnictity of people no matter where we turn and what path we choose to take in life we will always run into Racism. I hate it that we as people and citizens of America still have such hatred for eachother, we are all only human. The younger generation is catching hell because of problems our ancestors being white or black havent and should have resolved a long time ago. I am an African American female and i find it very difficult livi... (more »)
Dustfingers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 29, 2010 at 10:21 am
Racism will be around as long as people feel like they are lesser or better than people. Simply ingoring it won't make it go away it'll just make the problem boil under covers and those who are truly hurt by it won't have a voice in the matter. As for black people using the "N" Word. I feel like the word is definitely ot a fad that is just goign to wear out and since it was created by a certain group of people with a hateful motive it is only undersandable that the blac... (more »)
Schubster said...
Nov. 13, 2009 at 9:33 pm
I think that overall, people nowadays take things as prejudice no matter what comes out of your mouth. but still, it's very nicely written. good job :)
swimmergirl said...
Aug. 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm
In my town there are hardly any African Americans, Haitians, or Brazialians; notice that I did not call them "blacks" because that is not what they are, they each have individual cultures. Anyway because of the the lack of ethnic diversity some people in my town can be extremely racist and it just irks me.
jstarr22 replied...
Dec. 1, 2009 at 11:06 am
Why is calling them "blacks" offensive?
toxic.monkey replied...
Dec. 5, 2009 at 1:57 am
because it's labelling by color -_-
i always found this kind of stuff really annoying.. i mean, it's just the amount of melatonin a person's body produces. it's like dividing people for their hair color or eye color--- and isn't that what the Nazis did, essentially?
Yourfriend replied...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm
Why is "labeling by color" offensive?
(Hint: it's not.)
toxic.monkey replied...
Jan. 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm
because in that particular situation it's lumping in a whole variety of cultures and upbringings into one word, "blacks" as if it describes everything!
Maryon123 replied...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm
I strongly agree with you toxic.monkey. labeling someone by color is extremely offensive. I would know this because i am indeed of color. I woulndt want someone to call me or label me as "black", black is a color and i am in fact more than just a color. People indentify other people with colors such as, the "Red Man, being Indian", the "Brown Man, being Hispanic", the "Yellow Man, being Chinesse". the "White Man, being Cacuasian", the "Black... (more »)
MisplacedTexan14 replied...
May 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm
But if they are American citizens, they are not Haitians or Brazilians. they are Americans. And not all black people are African American. My friend Lydia is black and her family is from jamaica. (but she considers herself American, not Jamaican.) Not all black people are from Africa, so why call them African American.
seraphinagreene replied...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

and what about biracial people? 

i am referred to as being "black" all the time [i live in North Dakota] because it's simpler that saying Trinidadian & Indian [my mother is from Trinidad & my father is from India]. 

saying someone is "black" because the color of their skin is dark is just taking the easy way out but clumping us [minorities of African descent] all together. said...
Jun. 23, 2009 at 8:12 pm
I completely share Kari S.’s views on racism and agree with her statement that “Giving attention to bigotry only strengthens racism.” She points out how ethnic groups will take a derogatory name and use it as a culturally binding force. I hate hearing an African-American man call his friend “n***a” because it makes me feel as though people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who devoted their lives to battling racism, fought in vain.

I know that... (more »)
Jessica said...
Mar. 16, 2009 at 11:34 pm
Wow.. good point.
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