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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 40 comments. Post your own now!

Thhhpppfff said...
Sep. 16 at 1:23 am
If that's the case, why didn't we ignore slavery and post slavery segregation into oblivion?
cryptidgirlfriend said...
Jun. 8, 2016 at 11:13 am
your right the next time somebody invalidates my entire f******* existance ill just!!!! ignore it!!! amazing wow!!!!
crosica23 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 10, 2015 at 2:16 am
Maybe if we pretend the Klan isn't real, they'll go away
CorbenC. said...
Apr. 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm
Sounds like a reiteration of the infamous phrase: "Separate but equal".
Mockingjay_54 said...
Feb. 5, 2015 at 9:29 pm
Ignoring racism doesn't eliminate it. All it does is allow racist to continue to be racist without anyone standing up to them.People will just ignore racism and pretend it doesn't exist while it will still very much go on. Ignoring your problems won't eliminate them.
myra said...
Aug. 26, 2014 at 9:55 am
Couldn't have said it better myself. Wonderful insight Birdman1014!
RealAdviceforgirls said...
Feb. 5, 2014 at 12:27 am
Provoking. I however, think it's wrong. If we bring out every injustice and point out all racial slurs in a shameful manner people will get the picture that racism IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. By ignoring it they think it doesn't bug us so they think it's acceptable
Mdavis20 said...
Dec. 31, 2012 at 11:26 pm
This is a really good article and I really got to see a different insight than I have before.  This article is deffinetly thought provoking and I really enjoyed reading it.
Jackie.C said...
Oct. 8, 2011 at 7:46 am
Rascism is not just directed at color of skin. Check out my article Open Your Eyes! on racial discrimination!!
Sallyshine said...
Dec. 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm
It is a prblem but most people think its black people being made fun of by whites, and its not Black people can be just as igernante as some white people.  Not too be mean or anything (not saying whites dont do this) But when i see a black person on the street they try to act all cool as stuff well they are not. Everyone is the same.
Tatyana replied...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 2:15 am
not true y white people always gotta be actin wnna be's
Stargazer15 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 25, 2011 at 10:16 am
Wait so your saying black people are cool from when they are born?  BLack people are wanna-be's to Tat
Nijuly93 replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm
That didn't work in Germany in the 30's. People ignored Hitler and look what happened. Aside from that, you act like racism is just about words. Will genocide go away if you ignore it? Will an occupation go awya if you ignore it? Last month a black guy in by town got stabbed in the face by a Nazi. Yeah, let's all ignore it!
RealAdviceforgirls replied...
Feb. 5, 2014 at 12:28 am
Sallyshine black people are not all thugs and "swagger" most of them behave the same as us and I find it racist that u think that  
Mockingjay_54 replied...
Feb. 5, 2015 at 9:33 pm
@RealAdviceforgirls I'm glad you said something because i was going to go off on @Sallyshine for that racist comment even if it was 5 years ago.
Christablue said...
Nov. 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
When children are playing in the park together they don't notice the color of the child they are playing with. Which shows that racism is a taught behavior. The first example kids follow is of their parents
Sallyshine replied...
Jan. 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm
HEY YOU ROCK 4 SAYING THAT!!! SPEAK THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Christablue replied...
Jan. 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm
what's up, tell me a little about your poetry
RealAdviceforgirls replied...
Feb. 5, 2014 at 12:30 am
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.
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