STEREOTYPES & RACISM
Racism: Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.
Stereotype: standardized and simplified conceptions of groups, based on some prior assumptions.
Around us everyday at work, in business, at the grocery store, at school, we encounter stereotypes and racism. How susceptible are we, how often have we been hurt by feelings of being discriminated against? This topic evokes strong emotions; we often prefer to sweep it under the rug and act like everything is fine. The truth is, until you learn to deal with them, you will be crushed each time you face them.
America is a melting pot, people of all races and nationalities have come together under the banner of this great country and yet, stark differences and stereotypes keep the country divided. I have also been blessed to travel to countries in Europe like Sweden, Finland and Belgium, where these differences are even more ‘mind-boggling.’
Let me ask you: if you walk into an office and you are faced with a black African-American worker and a white Caucasian worker, who would you go to for help and why?
As an individual, in my experience in the business world, there have been numerous instances where I have felt judged and discriminated against because of my origins as an African; people judge you from your accent, the way you dress, the way your hair is done, etc. but as I have become more successful, living in an upper-class neighborhood, driving a luxury car, those judgments have become more subtle and laced with respect.
I believe that the odds I have overcome as my husband and I have built thriving businesses, have made me more confident in myself and helped me accept and love myself (after all, I am the Apple of God’s eye). I now realize that what makes me great is where I come from and who I am as a person.Because I have become more confident, stereotypes and racism don’t mean much tome. I equate them to ignorance – most folks even some of the more ‘successful’ ones have never traveled out of the area or country they were born in. Their knowledge and view of the world and other cultures is so limited, it is not funny. We are inherently selfish and although we go around waving the banner of Christianity, we are oh so empty.
One of my friends of African origin once related to me a conversation she had with someone from another culture, who ‘praised’ her for being so different from other Africans. How come she was so much more polished than the rest of them (meaning other Africans)? She looks different, dresses ‘classier’ and speaks really well. I was saddened by this. So who are we and what gives us the right to label others?
There is power in staying true to who you are. You can never be somebody else. You are a unique creature of God, gifted beyond all imagination. Embrace this uniqueness of yours and be tremendously proud of it. We all know of celebrities who have been destroyed in their quest to fit certain marketable stereotypes. You don’t want to go down that road.
Life does throw things at us, though. The company I am affiliated with is expanding into Nigeria, Africa. We have a product that offers people a cheaper way to communicate; this African market could easily become the biggest market in the company and has the potential to generate a lot of revenue. I travel to Nigeria to help in the expansion out there. We have a big event with hundreds of people. Countless people come up to me, calling me their daughter, telling me how proud they are of us – children of Africa who have gone out to the world and made them proud. The pride, respect and appreciation make me feel at home, I have remained true to who I am and I am a child of my motherland.
The same folks who think of us as inferior are now in a bind: wanting a piece of this huge African market, they have to figure out ways to become ‘friends’ with ‘these Africans’ as they refer to us, so that their businesses can expand out there. Now the human ‘use–others’ instinct kicks in. They approach ‘African prospects’ and bring them up to us – the leaders whose accents they can’t stand, who are not so polished – to help get them into their business because their prospects relate to us more. What a paradox.
At some point, I guess we are all guilty of this. Let’s take our bundles of racism and stereotypes and throw them out the window. Things are changing; the first are becoming the last and the last are becoming the first. There is a lesson to be learnt by President Obama’s election to the highest office in the land by all of us.
This article is meant to empower you. If it makes you feel angry or defensive, search your heart.
Matthew 22:36-40 “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”