Racism, homeschoolers and Nelson Mandela
An article in the May 7 Time Magazine, “Inside the Racist Mind” starts off “After a recent event where I spoke about racial identity, a white woman sidled up to me, leaned in close so no one near us could hear and said, ‘I’m racist.’” She later elaborates: “I just have these thoughts,” the woman at the reading said, almost whispering into my ear. “My mind just goes places. I can’t control it. I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help myself. I say, ‘Don’t think like that!’ But it’s what people told me when I was younger.”
The author goes on to discuss the conditioning that results in such prejudices. My issue with what he says is that these thoughts point to racism. I strongly disagree. Yes, many of our thoughts are a result of influences from earlier times and we may learn better yet the old thoughts still pop up. But as Dan Millman, author of the Peaceful Warrior books (http://www.peacefulwarrior.com/) says, “Self-mastery involves recognizing what we are not responsible for — the thoughts that enter our mind and flow out, and the emotions that pass like the weather — and what we are responsible for, which is our behavior.”
A highly illuminating example of this is from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography and I tell this from memory, having read the book quite a few years ago: when he boarded his plane after his years of captivity, he noticed the pilot was black and he had a moment’s hesitation!
“A reader, “Jane,” asserts that racism is the reason there are not ‘people of color’ at homeschooling gatherings. I don’t believe it is racism and if it is, it must be racism on the part of the people of color. I have never met any homeschoolers who would not welcome any person of color into their groups and who wouldn’t welcome information on their culture.
“I feel I have a perspective on this that comes from experience. I now live in Hawaii, where whites are a minority. I am married to a Japanese man–mixed marriages are very common here. Since my last name is now Japanese, nobody who sees my ads or talks to me on the phone knows I am Caucasian. Yet we had very few members from other races–just “haoles” as we are called here. The same was true when I was a La Leche League Leader and held meetings–in two years, I had one “person of color” attend. As I advertised both LLL and my homeschooling group very broadly, there’s no possibility that I didn’t reach a cross section of the population. And since I had no idea of the race of the people I was speaking to on the phone, there certainly was no racism on my part.
“Jane is correct in noting that many homeschoolers, including me, do not have resources on the literature, music and culture of people of color. But I don’t feel it’s correct to place so much significance on this fact. I don’t have any resources on the literature, music and culture of Russian, Tahitians, Swedish, Germans, Iranians, South Africans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans or a myriad of other races or cultures. This isn’t because I avoid them but because I haven’t had enough real life encounters to make these become a priority. We do read about Jewish holidays and celebrate several of them because we have some Jewish people in our homeschooling group. We’ve studied some Japanese customs because my husband is Japanese. If any other person of color showed up, we’d have a good reason to learn about them now rather than wait until their history comes up in some general studies.
“I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist. What I am saying is that people pointing the finger and setting themselves aside as a separate group and then complaining because the others don’t go out of their way to learn about them can be creating and perpetuating the friction of which they complain. We’ve all got some color so there really aren’t “people of color” and their opposite–I suppose “people of no color”. If Jane wants people of her race to be represented in homeschooling groups, she should encourage them to come on down, for I am completely confident that they would be welcome at virtually any homeschooling group in the country. And if they don’t come or don’t feel welcome, perhaps some soul-searching on their part would be more productive than finger pointing. A chip on one’s shoulder can be more of a barrier than the color of ones skin.”