Long time no blog!
Life has been busy. Between school and work and kids and trying to keep *some* of my sanity, blogging has been the furthest from my mind. I've had a hard time feeling "inspired" lately and truly haven't thought of anything to blog about. However, something happened the other day and I feel like maybe I just need to type it out in order to process it.
I have been a member of an online group of moms since I found out I was pregnant with Tenley. It is a group of women who were all pregnant and due in January of 2012. We originally "met" on a website called The Bump, however we moved over to facebook and formed a private group, making it easier to have open dialog and giving us a little more privacy. We started with around 180 women, but over the past 2 years, we are now at about 140 members.
There other day in a group, I worded something poorly and even after clarifying my point, I was labeled "racist" by a few of the women. I have met only a couple of the women in this group in person, so the vast majority of them only know me online. I know that any of my "real life" friends know that this statement is absolutely ridiculous and know that I might be a lot of things, but racist isn't one of them. One woman went as far as to say that she hoped my children "learned to appreciate other cultures from someone other than me" and that she hoped my children "didn't inherit my ignorance". Ouch.
My original post was in response to a lot of things I saw on facebook and different news sites stating that automatically assuming the Boston bombings might have been linked to Al Qaeda was racist. I disagreed. I think that in recent history, high profile terroristic acts against our country have been linked to (and here is where my wording was wrong and got me in trouble) "radical Middle Eastern or Muslim groups". I could not, for the life of me, remember the group name "Al Qaeda". I was hoping that the word radical would jump off the page and my point would be understood, however, it was not.
Eventually, someone said that using Middle Eastern, Muslim, and Al Qaeda interchangeably was where she was having an issue with my post. I thought about that and understood her point. It was ignorance on my part to group the three together. I think if my original post used only the word Al Qaeda, the responses would have been different. I should have said, "Having experienced the terror of September 11th, I don't feel it is racist for my initial fear response, upon hearing about an act of terrorism against our country, to be thoughts that it could be linked to Al Qaeda."
Over the past couple of days, I have been thinking about this a lot. I always want to improve myself and I'm not prideful to the point of not being able to admit when I am wrong. I thought about my poor choice of wording, and how it was simply a blunder of words on my part, and not that I feel negatively toward any particular race or religion. I don't. I can't change that woman's opinion of me and honestly don't care to. Anyone who can so quickly judge my parenting ability based on a slip of wording is not worth my time or effort.
The number one thing that keeps coming to my mind, however, were the responses that I got from some of the women. I really thought about it, and the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. I think that we, as a generation, have such a huge opportunity to change this crazy issue we seem to have about not being able to discuss our misconceptions about other cultures and our questions about the differences between different races. It is so detrimental to give someone the label of "racist" instead of listening to them and having an open dialog about a misconception.
A girl that I work with and I have had many conversations where we give each other a hard time. She is black, and I am white, and both of us have heard the stereotypes that are out there about each of our races. One day, I jokingly said, "If I were black, I would name my kids something crazy!" She laughed and replied, "If you were black and named your kids something crazy, I would consider you ghetto." We laughed about it, and it opened up a conversation in which we discussed some of the common misconceptions about the other's race. It was a fun and light-hearted conversation in which we were both open-minded enough to discuss questions that we were previously afraid to even ask, for fear of offending someone or being labeled as "racist".
Does it make me racist to have questions about another race or culture? I would hope not! However, we seem to have this wall up where it is considered rude to ask a question. You know what this does? It allows ignorance to continue. You know what ignorance breeds? Racism.
What happened to me the other day happens all the time! My comment was absolutely not meant to offend anyone. I worded it poorly and as soon as I realized my mistake, I apologized, took responsibility for what I said, and tried to correct it. The women who criticized me did so with the idea that they were taking a stand against racism. However, I think by doing something like this, they are doing just the opposite of what they intended. They were wrong in how they labeled me, and I know I'm not the first person in history to be wrongly labeled as racist. It makes me feel that I can't start a conversation with the intent of educating myself, or ask a question to better understand something that I have previously misunderstood.
Was I misinformed? Maybe. Am I unwilling to change my opinion on something? No. Is calling me a racist and refusing to further engage me in conversation to get to a common ground beneficial? No.
If we can't ask questions or have conversations without being labeled as racist, or without making low-blows about a person's ability to raise their children with respect and understanding of people who are different than them, we will continue in this vicious cycle. Ignorance breeds racism. If we keep labeling people as racist for simply making a statement or asking a question, they'll eventually stop trying to understand. Misunderstanding allows ignorance to continue. And ignorance breeds racism. See the cycle?