"Racism continues to cause suffering for millions of people around the world.... I look to all people to join the United Nations in our drive to eliminate racism. We must, individually and collectively, stamp out racism, stigma and prejudice." U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moonToday is the United Nation's declared International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. "The theme for this year's event is 'Racism and Conflict,' highlighting the fact that racism and discrimination often are at the root of deadly conflict."
It might be hard to imagine how to respond to a war of genocide based on race in a country far away, or even to an attack on a teenage boy walking home at night in a Florida neighborhood. But there is significant work creative people can do right here, right now, within our own psyches.
1. Explore our own stories.
The concept that a difference of skin color or eye shape renders someone less than and therefore threatening lurks in all of our unconscious minds. One thing we can do, anywhere, any day, is to explore the bias we've absorbed. Bring it out into the cleansing light and investigate it, without judgment, like detectives gathering clues.
Ask yourself questions such as:
- What ideas about race did you get exposed to without your permission?
- What racial realities did you witness as a child, at home, in your community, in the world at large?
- How did you observe adults behaving in response to race?
- What messages were transmitted, often by implication, about your role in it all, based on your racial group(s)?
- How might any of this have lodged in your mind, out of reach of your conscious thoughts, but affecting your attitudes and behaviors? (This is especially true of white socialization, which is often rooted in the invisibility of and silence about race.)
2. Create a new vision.
Today also happens to be World Poetry Day (thanks for the tip, Kirsten!). There's a connection that can be made between the two.
As creators and users of children's books, as parents, as educators, as people who care about all of our children, we can help "stamp out racism" by imagining a different reality, so vivid and full of light that the idea of judging others by race withers in its shadow. Not a pale, pastel "color-shouldn't-matter" tolerance. But a fierce, primary-colored, "that's-my-family-you're-talking-about" pride that demands recognition of the connection among and essentiality of all of us. That can leave no one behind.
On the international days for the Elimination of Racism and for Poetry, what's your vision of how we might all be, together?
(My own vision is temporarily limited to words in the aftermath of the death of my computer. Images from my illustrations will return, as soon as I'm back up and running, digitally.)