I picked this topic because I notice language and behaviours in society that I feel are racially discriminating, prejudiced and offensive, but seem to often goes unnoticed by others (or else I get told ‘it’s a joke and I should not take things so seriously). I suppose I am referring specifically to my recent experiences in New Zealand, though I have also noticed it in other countries I have visited or lived in, and can (sadly) imagine it to be present in many/most other societies around the world.
What I have discovered
I read different links and articles that came up when Googling ‘microaggression’ and ‘ingrained racism’. I had heard of the term microaggression before but have learnt more about the forms it can take. The term encompasses unintended discrimination towards any marginalised group in society, and while it may be unintentional (perhaps through thoughtlessness or ignorance), the effect is the same as intentional racism in that it perpetuates societal marginalisation of the receiver.
As for ingrained racism, I read of two different kinds: personal and political/institutional. In New Zealand, I see both present in our society; perhaps most obviously towards Maori people, but to people from other ethnicities as well (including Pakeha/white people).
Reading through the materials I found helped me better understand the theories and conceptualisation of microaggressions and ingrained racism. Overall, it has made me believe it is an issue worthy of consideration, and something worth fighting against (rather than it being me just ‘making a big deal about nothing’, as I have been told on occasion).
Earlier this week, the topic of racism came up with my friends (as it often does). One of my friends asked me about why I find certain language offensive if it does not concern my race, and we then got in to a deeper discussion about societal prejudices and marginalisation. It was she that suggested I use ‘ingrained racism’ as my awareness topic this week, as she said I had helped her understand a concept she had never even considered before.
My other action for this topic is that I am going to send a short article to a local newspaper about racial separation in our community, drawing on my experiences since moving here.
Update: here is the link to the article I published. It made the front page of the NZ news website within 2 hours of publication! I was not expecting that. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/11091816/Why-I-send-my-Pakeha-child-to-Kohanga-Reo
Update 2: the article kind of went viral! The news website it was published on disabled comments as there were so many coming in (hundreds and hundred and hundreds). I have been contacted by two TV stations, 2 radio stations & a magazine for interviews, plus got sent many messages to my Facebook. I never saw any of this coming, but it seems the article really stirred something within New Zealand.
Here is the first radio interview I did: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/20164339. I got a call back from the station saying they had an overwhelming amount of feedback, which was almost exclusively positive (which was nice given that the article was met with mixed responses (more positive than negative, but the negative ones were sometimes hurtful. Total strangers came to my defense though, which was amazing).