Racism and discussions people of color is a topic that fills libraries and web pages with information dealing with a topic that many are uncomfortable with. There is a book aptly named after this too; “We Can’t Talk about That at Work!”. Repeatedly we hear people talk about diversity and the cultural importance of having a past and background, but, in this blog, I want to take a moment to break down why it can be useful to highlight differences and celebrate them instead of believing that heterogeneity of cultures would equate to harmonizing people.
People of color or referred to as POCs are working in all industries and as mentioned earlier, there is a necessity to shine a light on the differences and how culture can play a role in the varying industries.
People that talk about color
Going back to the book I mentioned, “We Can’t Talk about That at Work!”. This book informs people on how to handle conversations that can polarise a smoothly working team within moments. The thing about it is that it holds a very realistic pretense that suggests that people at the work are already having such conversations. It is clear for us that people have started to wake up to the many insufficiencies in the social framework of our society and are having these conversations for two reasons (in my opinion).
The first one, a quite harsh reality, is that they are afraid of change and want to impose an ideology that is oftentimes orthodox onto people in their immediate vicinity. This allows them to make a judgment of the people that surround them and the create a circle of people that propagates in the un-varying circle of ideologies. I like to call it the circle of toxicity. In my circle of friends, this would be considered a fairly toxic trait as we are constantly battling each other’s way of thought regardless of acceptance of the idea.
Honestly, being comfortable in a circle of similarly thinking people makes complete sense and I have nothing against it. What I do not like about such an arrangement is that it harbors even the worst of ideologies if it goes unchallenged. With people who prefer to sit in these circles of inter-dependence, a commonly noticed trait is fear of confrontation on the premise of hurting a friend.
I am sure you may have met people who are non-confrontational and have been in toxic relationships be it with friends or their significant others. So, in an environment where anyone is free to get away with saying anything, the jump to becoming an incubator for intolerance is not very far.
The other reason to have such a conversation takes a learning approach. The idea is simple.
I do not understand something and will make an effort to further expand my understanding of the world by forming an opinion on the subject matter.
Of course, there are barriers even to this, for example, the fear of saying something wrong and it being offensive. Memes like this (see below) have made enough rounds on the internet and social media to confirm that there is a large portion of people who are fearful of what they say and how they say it.
But, what is great about this approach is that it relies on constantly battling ideas where the strongest defenses win. It is the application of survival of the fittest on a set of abstract ideas. Quite powerful, if you ask me.
Now it is important to remember that people are not responsible for explaining everything about a certain topic to you for multiple reasons, one because they have their own opinions and you could be adopting someone else’s opinion without having formed your own, without complete information. And the other being that no one has complete information about a given topic. That would be a classic case of tokenization, that is not the aim. Google is out there for you to gain as much information as possible about a subject and make an unbiased choice.
The Color of the World
Let consider the entire world and try to think of places where white people are predominant in society by birth. Please note that for the purposes of this piece of content, I am referring to white people as people of European descent. Let’s take a look at this map here:
Between Asia and Africa, 77% of the world population is accounted for. Notice how these are the main regions where the European ancestry is the lowest. Now let’s look at the population density of the world:
Note how the regions with the highest population density have the most people of color. Of course, there are a lot of elements in play like the cultural approach to family planning and access to contraception but, overall, it is the people of color that are population majority in the world.
When learning about any form of oppression, be it racism or sexism, one of the first things that you are taught is that it stems from a majority oppressing a minority in the same space. So when people of color or more in population, how is it that it is they who are subjected to oppression?
Well, the answer is right in front of us if we look closely at the last part of the explanation of oppression. Oppression occurs in the same space. It is important to notice that racism is higher in places with European descendants because that is where the people of color are in minority. There is also the presence of internalized racism that I have talked about, but, let’s not get into that right now.
So by all of what I have said, the most apparent conclusion one can come to is that heterogeneity of culture is the way to create more acceptance. But let’s think about the circle of toxicity I mentioned earlier. Imagine this. An entire world that follows the same rules, has the same beliefs, and the idea of individuality is solely retained for the kind of work you do. Not only is that quite unbelievable, but it is also a grim look at the world at best. Humans would have no sovereignty against robots.
So why talk about the differences?
The answer is truly a straight line connecting people and their cultures. It’s because these differences exist and will always exist. Things like implicit bias and cultural differences are not something that will vanish overnight. This brings us to the fact that as long as these differences exist, it is important that we hold conversations about them. While we try to avoid conversation about our individuality in the workplace and bring in human resources to politically guide a conversation towards a productive team, we lose our identities in a place where we spend over 40 hours a week.
When talking about differences, it is easy to get tied up in defining a community by the only example you have in front of you, but the conversation can only be moved forward if you take some time to do your own research and formulate opinions by asking questions and not imposing your ideas.
This is my personal way of dealing with implicit bias or when I see someone being xenophobic.
When we talk about these differences, the battling of ideas starts to happen. A lot of the times we concede by saying to each their own and many times we are successful in changing one’s opinions about a sensitive topic. Sometimes we get into fights about what is right and what isn’t. All of this is healthy for humanity in general and presents us with the opportunity to create a truly accepting environment with reduced violence.
India’s constitution and it’s execution is an example of a thriving community that relies on the difference of each other culturally and otherwise, to expand on the rich human experience. No wonder so many people arrive in India to find themselves. Where better to find individuality than where others’ beliefs cannot be imposed on you and you get exposed to a wide array of communities.
What can these differences mean for you?
Other than to aid you on the quest to forming your individuality, it can make you happy, truly. Be it in the comfort of different people conforming to similar ideas or similar people battling different ideas. You will be intellectually stimulated to learn, grow, and experience life from other’s perspectives. This conversation is truly bigger than an individual and can discern what peace is for humanity.
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