Cub Editorial: The unintentional racist

Editorial Staff

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Racism has reared its ugly head into America’s spotlight once again.

A video of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chanting racial slurs surfaced online on March 8. The reaction to the video resulted in the immediate expulsion of two students leading the chant and the suspension of the SAE’s Oklahoma chapter.

While we hope an action like this would not occur at Redwood, small racist remarks are still present in our community, and they culminate into a permanently skewed attitude.

It is erroneous to think that racism is not an issue in Marin or the Redwood community. Unfortunately, some students continue to take racist comments too lightly.

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While some of us may feel that Marin is a liberal bastion free from the racial issues that plague towns like Ferguson, Missouri, it is not uncommon to hear some Redwood students making racist remarks to friends or stereotyping others almost automatically, even if they don’t consciously register it as racism or prejudice. Slurs about African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics are part of some students’ daily language.

Each individual student likes to think of themselves as tolerant, but every discriminatory comment towards a person because of their race is a form of racism. Making fun of an Asian who does badly on a test or calling out a black person for being a good athlete is classifying a person using racial stereotypes. This makes the person feel isolated, and while many justify their comments as “not racist”, it is in fact racism and should be treated as such.

Additionally, we should not assume that casual remarks are unable to mold our beliefs towards race. Over time, making remarks or assumptions based on race builds to beliefs which trivialize the true impact of racism.

In a talk with NPR last year, Columbia Professor of Psychology Derald Sue defined racial microaggression as “commonplace daily indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Sue explained that over time this microaggression adds up to a permanent mindset in which the person on the receiving end of the comment begins to feel that hate is pervasive throughout their community.

In other words, the hallway comments add up.

Many students’ insensitive comments are not meant to harm others or to cause unrest. For most, these comments are just part of daily language and casual conversation with friends, so the commonness of the remarks makes them seem normal. Yet over time the repeated use of slurs and other stereotypes can lead to indifference to or acceptance of “casual racism and prejudice”.

While it seems relatively harmless now, this acceptance could lead Redwood students to continue using these remarks because often times there are no adults around to hear these racist comments. With nobody telling them otherwise, they will continue to push until they enter a territory of truly malevolent racism.

Racism and prejudice are always a big deal. If we continue to take it lightly in Marin and at Redwood, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves with a culture in which maltreatment and discrimination run rampant. The chants of the SAE fraternity may have rung out thousands of miles away, but if we are not careful, a similar ignorant seed may take root in Marin.