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The Color of Fear

June 27, 2011

I recently watched “The Color of Fear,” a documentary by Lee Mun Wah about eight men of different races engaging in a conversation about racism.  Watching it reminded me how uncomfortable and difficult it is to talk about racism.  It also reminded me of the importance of having these sorts of conversations.  The documentary was raw, honest, insightful, frustrating, dispiriting and inspiring. 

The way these men conveyed their ideas was incredibly articulate.  I hope to be that succinct someday when I speak of issues like racism.  But that level of eloquence is difficult especially because engaging in social justice dialogue is not something we were brought up to do.  For me, it wasn’t until the sixth grade that I truly started to recognize the segregation of people based on skin color, and I was in college before I was asked to think critically about how my race has influenced my life experiences.  That’s ridiculous!

Since my engagement in eRace, I’ve realized how we’ve been conditioned to live in the white world, to place the white man on a pedestal, and to criticize those who are not like him.  In my own family, I was taught that blacks and Latinos were lazy and unintelligent.  I was taught to not be like them but instead to be more like the white American.  I sometimes still catch myself thinking these things, but recognizing them is the first step to eliminating them from my consciousness.  This recognition will prevent me from acting unjustly and hopefully will prevent me from unintentionally instilling those ideas in someone else like they have been in me.

We are all responsible for eliminating racism and at the end of the day, we are all racist.  We’ve just been taught to be that way.  Recognizing our racist habits and thoughts will help us determine what needs to be changed because, again, we’re all responsible for making those changes.  Racism doesn’t simply end when individuals decide to no longer be racist.  It takes time and effort and support from all.  To work together, we have to talk to each other, share our ideas and experiences and be challenged by those of others.  Hopefully this becomes a habit and, from that, we can cultivate another generation who will be more aware of social issues and more willing to engage in discussions about them.

So, go and engage in dialogue and explore what racism is.  Feel uncomfortable.  Recognize when the internalized racist in us comes out to play.  Understand how the media is reinforcing racist and white supremacist ideals.  Then come back and tell me what you’ve learned, and I’ll share my learning too.


Watch: “The Color of Fear” (1994), directed by Lee Mun Wah, Stir-Fry Productions, Berkeley, CA

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