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Welcoming Communities: Discussion of racism

The Welcoming Communities Project of New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, and Springfield met via ZOOM to discuss racism and how it plays out in our communities. Racism is defined as any action, intentional or unintentional, that discriminates, antagonizes and subordinates a group or individual based on skin color or race. There are different types of racism that play out in our day to day lives within our communities. It may be important for us to understand types of racism so that we can identify and correct actions/thoughts that impact our relationships and interactions with people in our community.

Structural racism is practices within a society that places one race above the other. This form of racism could be based on historical legacies, institutions or individuals that work interactively as a system to distribute advantages and disadvantages along racial lines. This form of racism does not require racist actions by individuals because individuals may go along with what is already established without questioning it, or without voicing protest. An example of structural racism is the fact that COVID 19 disproportionately affects Black, Latino and Indigenous populations compared to white populations.

Institutional racism is discriminatory treatment, unfair policies, inequitable opportunities, based on race, that occurs between institutions. This might occur in education, housing, criminal justice systems, representation in leadership positions, health care systems and the health insurance industry. Institutional racism usually results in blocking people of color from equally accessing goods, services, and opportunities in society.

Interpersonal racism is bigotry and implicit bias between individuals. Research demonstrates that most, if not all people, possess some sort of implicit bias (Project Implicit 2008). Implicit bias is the attitudes and stereotypes within our subconscious that impact our subsequent words and actions. Examples of interpersonal bias can be giving a person of color “the stare” when he or she walks into a bar or eating establishment, or personal assumptions indicating that a person of color might not be able to afford certain goods in a shopping mall, or a person of color performing lifesaving procedures and another person doubting that he or she is a medical doctor.

Internalized racism is beliefs, actions, behaviors that support or collude with racism. It is a form of oppression in which a person, victimized by daily long-term exposure to racism, internalizes it and may consciously or unconsciously accept racial hierarchy in which whites are ranked above people of color. Internalized racism can have adverse effects on those who experience it. People of color can have different reactions and attitudes to cope with the exhausting long-term exposure to implicit bias and racism. High internalized racism has been linked to significant health problems, anxiety and depression, emotional reactions of anger and shame, high blood pressure. and increased death rates.

It is our hope that if we can recognize racism within our community, we can move forward together to solve racial inequities. We have the capacity to listen to each other, to learn from one another and to meet people where they are at so that we can have honest community-changing conversations. We can begin to understand racism so that if we see something we can say something. Imagine a world without racism. What would it look like? What would it feel like? Can we work together to achieve a state in which success is no longer predictable by any social, cultural or economic factor?

Quoting Tony Robbins “change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change”. As a society, we have reached that point. We need to change and we

Invite our fellow citizens of New Ulm to be part of the change.

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