I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I think everyone is a little bit racist (like the Avenue Q song).
I think it’s easier to believe you aren’t racist when you are surounded by your own race, or people of many races who are very similar to you in education/hobbies/income level and who you ultimately share a similar culture with.
It’s also easier if you are white, because in white american culture, we are taught that “we are all the same”. White american parents teach that to their children because we’re ashamed of our history in the US and this is our way of fixing it. Black american culture, for example, does not necessarily teach that “we are all the same”. AA parents teach their children that being black is a very different experience from being white, or any other ethnicity in the U.S.
It’s much, much harder to believe you aren’t racist when you live in a place where you are the ethnic minority, and see you the same “stereotypes” perpetuated again and again and you start to forget that there are people outside of where you live who exist and don’t fit that stereotype.
If that doesn’t make sense, I can give you an example. I grew up in a small town in southwest texas that basically just had two ethnicities: white and hispanic. I grew up laregely oblivious to race, although I understood differences in last names and languages spoken at home. But I honestly thought (and still think) that MY culture as a “white” person was very much tex-mex. Meaning, I grew up with Mexican and White friends, my teachers were both ethnicities, my principal was hispanic, half our school board was hispanic, the town mayor was hispanic, our police chief was hispanic. I definitely didn’t grow up feeling different or picked on though, so I guess I grew up in bubble that way. I did think it was normal for school cafeterias to serve tamales, chalupas, and elotes for lunch. I thought this was “my” cultures food too (well, I still think that).
Then I went to college in a big city, and I cultivated a group of friends that were from different ethnicities, but we still had the same education level and hobbies.
Then I moved to a big city, where I cultivated an even more diverse group of close friends, consisting of more and more non-americans of all different races/religions/worldviews. but again, we still had the same educational backgrounds, same interests, same income levels.
All this time I thought, “well look at me. I’m white, and I’m not racist”. Kind of a mental pat-on-the-back.
Then I worked for 9 years in an inner city, low income school district. And a lot of these “stereotypes” that I’d heard about about other races confronted me on a daily basis, every day, all day.
That’s when I began to discover that people are NOT “all the same” no matter what their skin color is. I think we as americans (and really, we as people of the world) need to aknowledge that sometimes yes, skin color does come attached with an entire culture. A culture that is different from other cultures. We are not all the same–we have different ways of speaking, different cultural norms and values, different family rituals. Two people can grow up in the exact same town in the same years and have two totally different experiences because they have different skin colors.
We should acknowledge these differences rather than telling ourselves that “we are all the same”, you know?
Case in point: One summer, I was traveling solo around Europe. In greece, I met two other american girls who were also each traveling solo. Every where we went, people would ask us where we were from. We would say the U.S….and the greeks would be like, yeah we know SHE’S american (meaning me), but where are you two from? (meaning the other girls). One girl was chinese-american, from NY…the other girl was also from Texas and her parents were from India. All three of us were born-and-raised americans. None of us had an accent. But we had three different experiences in Greece.