Dear GZ Advisor,
My good friend Julia is feeling like many people in our school are racist. I don't know how to talk to her about this. Can you help?
Teens have talked very openly with Oprah on her show about stereotypes and perceptions concerning racism in our constantly more diverse country.
Here is Oprah's take: "You cannot live in this country and not see color. We all need to step out of the naivete box and stop pretending it really doesn't exist. We need to understand that we live in a world that gives certain people privileges because of the color of their skin."
I think Oprah is right. We need to see and to see CLEARLY. We need to be sure that we are NOT seeing stereotypes. Many people don't have much contact with diverse ethnic groups; too many of us have only inaccurate media representations to go by. How can we change that?
How can we get rid of stereotypes?
Children and teens need to be "exposed to media that is diverse" according to Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. Her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? is a good place to start.
A life-changing event for Oprah was when she heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson give a speech at her high school Excellence, according to Rev. Jackson is the best deterrent to racism and to sexism. He admonishes us to "be excellent." Think about it; how different would the world be if we all simply try to be the best that we can?
But history is important too. It's important to know the true story. It's important to not buy into the lies that those who ARE prejudice against race, religion, and gender would have us believe.
Want to know the truth about the Civil Rights Movement? Check out the movie, Eyes on the Prize. This is a six-hour Public Broadcasting film that portrays an accurate history of the civil rights movement. Maybe you can talk to one of your teachers about showing it to your class one class period at a time as a mini-series.
Make sure you don't believe in stereotypes. If no one will tell you the real story, find out for yourself. Once you know it; spread it around! Education stops racism. Demand that your education be excellent and accurate!