The articles Combating Intentional Bigotry and Inadvertently Racist Acts by Blanchard and Interrupting The Cycle of Oppression by Ayvazian are perfect for ending this semester on social justice. Now that we've learned how systems of oppression work to keep people "in their place", learning how to break down those walls to free the oppressed and to "crack the glass" gives the semester a solid sense of closure and a feeling of personal accomplishment as a student.
Blanchard discusses how people who are either totally uneducated on racism or have never had a racial encounter are bound to, well, say something stupid from time to time when they're finally in a situation with people of other races. He believes that people who make unintentional racist slip-ups only do so because they simply don't know any better. They shouldn't be punished or reprimanded, but instead addressed about what they did, informed about why it is unacceptable, and asked to handle the situation differently next time. He feels there is a distinct difference between someone who is intentionally trying to oppress someone by making racist comments, and someone who is doing it unknowingly. "The prohibitions often embrace both the intentional behavior of the committed bigot and the careless behavior of those inexperienced with racial contacts." I agree with his views on this conflict, and feel it can be applied to all aspects of social justice. When in the presence of a "committed bigot", it is very important to stand up and be an ally even if there is risk involved, and even if you think the person will not change their ways. However, because the careless person doesn't understand what they're saying or doing, when you recognize that situation, I feel that it is even more imperative to take responsibility to enlightening that person, otherwise you are allowing it to continue.
Blanchard also talks about how it needs to be a law that racial comments and harassment not be allowed in the work place, home, or in public, just the same as sexual harassment. He states, “Unfortunately, the federal and state regulations that
define and bar racial harassment are neither as articulate nor as encompassing
as those governing sexual harassment. Until state and federal rules barring racial
harassment recognize how seemingly less-odious behaviors can accumulate to
produce an atmosphere of intimidation, codes of conduct that rely on them will
restrain only the most flagrant forms of attack.” This is to say that if it is not made illegal for a person to act upon their racist beliefs in any form, that only when people physically harm and kill others because of racial differences, will anything be done against it legally. Sexual harassment is illegal because it not only leads to acts of sexual violence, but because it is socially unacceptable, and people who are victims of even the most "harmless" verbal sexual harassment feel uncomfortable and in physical danger. Is the same not true of racism? Do people who are victims of racist words not feel like they are in danger? Shouldn't there also be inclusive laws making racism socially unacceptable?
Ayvazian shows us how to be allies and to actively fight these harmful words and oppressors. She says that if in a situation of social injustice you find yourself having traits that are dominant over the injustice at hand, there is a great opportunity for you to be successful is changing the situation. “When we consider the different manifestations of systematic
oppression and find ourselves in any of the categories where we are dominant –
and therefore receive the unearned advantages that accrue to that position of
advantage – we have the potential to be remarkably powerful agents of change as
allies.” As we discussed in class and as Blanchard also stated, if you're witnessing an act of social injustice and you do nothing, you are allowing it to continue and letting the oppressor gain strength in their beliefs. They will assume that everyone agrees with them and that they are right. It is important to show people how you feel and express your opinions when you disagree on any subject, but it is crucial to do so when others' comfort and safety is at risk. Ayvazian defines ally behavior so well: “Allied behavior means taking personal responsibility for
the changes we know are needed in our society, and so often ignore or leave
others to deal with.” If people don't take the risk of standing up for what they know in their hearts is right, then they are abandoning their own beliefs and rendering themselves ineffectual. If you know that a person being bullied or oppressed is worth taking a risk for, and if you know that you are a worthwhile human being, then you shouldn't be afraid to utilize your power for change! Be an ally! Its worth it!