Racial Intolerance Essay Example
Ignorance on a topic is something everyone will go through at some point in life. A person could strive to study a multitude of topics and materials to avoid ignorance, but it is impossible to know everything. However, it is wrong to deny something occurs just because it has not happened to you. This mindset is far too prevalent and poses an easy trap for people to fall into, myself included. Unfortunately, it took a personal attack to pull open my eyes to see the fault in my mindset and begin the process of change. Through this hardship, I was able to break free from my naïve mindset by understanding that ignorance takes on many forms, including a lack of knowledge, absence of experience, or a reluctance to learn.
For a long time, I lacked a profound knowledge or understanding about racial issues. I had learned about slavery, civil rights, and social injustice in history classes all throughout school, but it never seemed “real” to me. It was hard to picture a severe level of hatred towards another human being just because of skin color, or to understand that systematic attacks were conducted on African American communities. I fell into “If it doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t really happen” and “Out of sight, out of mind” mindsets. Furthermore, I rarely engaged with any form of racial literacy during high school. I read racial literacy excerpts and short works such as To Kill a Mockingbird in various English classes, but often did not take away anything lessons or profound importance. It was difficult to see deeper connections and relate to the arguments and ideas presented within the racial literacy. These misconceptions and skewed view of the world were wrong of me to engage with and helped to perpetuate my ignorance on the subject.
As a white conservative male, it would seem unlikely that I would be a target of any form of racial intolerance. However, I was in an interracial relationship during my high school years. On a routine shopping outing with my then girlfriend, we encountered a man who yelled out a racial slur and a few other insults as we walked by, furiously shaking his fist in the air. I ushered my girlfriend away from the store and out of harm’s way. I was shaken up and felt sick in my stomach. We left the area soon afterwards and discussed what had happened on the ride to our next destination. The peaceful shopping trip had taken a dark turn but would fundamentally change how I view the world.
Experiencing racial intolerance for the first time opened my eyes and allowed me to better see the social problems that minorities and people of color often face on a day-to-day basis. I had never faced any racial prejudice or anger towards myself up until that point, and poorly understood the struggles minorities face due to my previous mindsets. The conversation I had with my girlfriend afterwards help me understand that the encounter her and I had gone through was very mild in comparison to what others had experienced. She explained to me that situations like what we had experienced can often escalate quickly and turn to violence. My naïve state of mind on racial tensions slowly started to change in the coming months.
Not long after the event, my English teacher assigned a reading by Martin Luther King Jr. titled Letter from Birmingham Jail. While reading the text, I began see the validity and reasoning behind his arguments more so than I had previously. I began to agree with King’s belief in acting now. I understood that there would never be a perfect time to fight for civil rights, and if we waited the ignorance and intolerance would continue. My experience with racial intolerance had influenced my open-mindedness. Racial issues began to seem more “real” to me because I could to an extent relate my encounter. I became more receptive to King’s arguments and passion for tackling social issues through peaceful protest, and was willing to learn about the injustices and struggles I had ignored.
Race based issues are continuing to make an appearance in modern day. The recent surge of the Black Lives Matter protests and other similarly linked civil rights issues have once again sparked debate and increased tensions. During the initial push for civil rights, the leaders of the civil rights movement used peaceful protest as a tool to increase awareness and gain national attention. In the modern day, I was disappointed to see peaceful protests devolve into riots and violence. The anger and hatred incited by these situations is not helpful to any side of the political aisle. The issue of racial targeting and brutality must not be faced with hatred, rioting, or unpeaceful protest. These acts shut people out and squander the opportunity for either side to learn or listen.
While my encounter was non-violent and mild in comparison to what some individuals have gone through, I do not want anyone to have a similar experience. We must start recognizing and learning about racial issues in order to diminish ignorance and to dissolve current problems and hostility. Exposure is key to this learning. I lacked a true understanding of racial ignorance until my uncomfortable encounter. My exposure to racial intolerance, although a negative situation, encouraged me to change my perspective and allowed me to engaged with racial literacy on a deeper level. A widespread emphasis on positive exposure, whether in a school, community, or civil movement setting, offers a way forward to decrease the potential for racial ignorance. Racial literacy is a key component of this positive exposure that can diminished ignorance. Literacy works give the opportunity to learn about the struggles, arguments, and perspectives of prominent racial and civil rights figure through history. Through positive exposure and learning, our generation can open our eyes and face this problem head on in an attempt to mitigate a dark future.