While the Oxford English Dictionary can give a definition to the term "racism," the existence of racism cannot be boiled down to a black and white definition. Many people who think they have the answer have tried and failed to cut the roots of discrimination, all while strengthening the ideology at the base. So, to what or to whom do we thank for the persistence of racism through time?
Us. That's correct; we can only thank ourselves... Before you get all defensive about this claim, take a step back and look at the situation from a completely objective standpoint.
You can only blame the previous generation so much before the argument gets old. Yeah, our parents were raised in a different time and under different beliefs and may or may not have imposed their beliefs on us, but what about those from their generation who have stepped up in the name of equal rights and spoken on behalf of those wronged by societal prejudices? What about the people from their parents' generation that did the same? And so on and so forth. They rose to the occasion just as we should in turn. We alone control the ability to bring about change in the world, and when we pass on, the next generation will continue where we left off.
However, in order to quell the beast, we have to start somewhere, and a logical starting point is to expand the definition of "racism".
What I mean by the proposed expansion is this: we must establish a dialogue to use in discussion of racism and where and when it is appropriate. With the expanse of the entire English vocabulary, we are sure to be able to put together a comprehensive list of items to consider in conversation. After all, words have power.
In the meantime, we need to stop labeling people as being "racist" prior to hearing their side of the story. The judicial system of the United States of America was established on the principle of innocence until proven otherwise--a principle we tend to overlook. In some cases we mistake cultural insensitivity for racism, and sometimes our quick actions have unequal and opposite reactions. Take Wendy Bell for example. Was she displaying her innate racism, or was she simply culturally insensitive? I tend to believe the latter. The ethics of her Facebook post and how she had to act as a professional are not in question here but, instead, her intentions. Was she in the wrong? Yes. Did she deserve to lose her job? This is something we can't properly discuss without knowing first how to discuss it ourselves.
All in all, what you should take away from this article is the following: racism is taught, but let's make it history. Let's lay the next bricks on the path to liberation.