Ostriches are known by the myth that they bury their heads in the ground to avoid danger. As such the term Ostrich Effect is coined whenever someone tries to avoid risky financial situations. They pretend such situations do not exist. However, it’s safe to say that this type of mentality I like to call the Ostrich Mentality can also be applied to the subject of racism.
Have you ever heard or been in conversation where race is the subject, and at least one person in the group who’s usually white in most cases say something like this:
Why do you continue to bring race and(or) racism up? Why are you trying to divide the races when people should be trying to get together? All that stuff (usually referring to slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and anything overtly racist seen in old 1960s news footage) happened in the past and it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. Besides, if you stop talking about it, it wouldn’t be an issue.
In other words if anti-racists would forget all the racism that has targeted us for hundreds of years up to this very second, it will vanish faster than common sense in an episode of Jackass. We should all ignore it and hope that mean, old spirit of racism goes away forever.
Anti-racists bring up racism because it still exists, and they know no amount of silence will slay the beast. It still causes so much death, destruction, and depression on many levels: It is responsible for the destruction of native people, and the slavery of African people in history. It is responsible for the outrageously high number of minorities processed through and within the prison industrial complex as young as 10 years old. It is responsible for the harsh treatment of Asians in this land. It is responsible for profiling those of Middle Eastern descent and those who practice Islam as “potential” terrorists. It is responsible for the severe imbalance in how the media portrays races. It is responsible for poor, inner-city youth of color to get poorly educated. It is responsible for suspecting black and brown youth of being “naturally” criminal. It is responsible for the mindset of trying to keep as many black and brown foreigners out of this nation as possible. It is responsible for police attacks and murders of black and brown youth on a constant basis. It is responsible in how society treats women of color as less than human, and it is the reason why we can’t simply come together, sing songs, and hold hands because we fear one of those hands will stab us.
That kind of pain does not go away on its own!
Pretending that racism doesn’t exist or is no longer a threat is as dangerous as getting seriously wounded and ignoring it. I always use the “wound analogy” to point this out.
Let’s say that you have a pretty bad cut on your arm. If you were to use the ostrich mentality in how to approach this, then instead of getting emergency treatment for it at a hospital, you would just chill and hope that it would heal itself. While the wound is open, blood escapes and germs and bacteria enter the body. The wound will become infected, and the germs that have entered your body is causing a chain of events making you feel worse. However, you still pretend that it would heal itself. Before long, things go from bad to worse. Anything from amputation to even death could happen all because you feel that the cut would heal itself.
Racism is that deep cut within American society, and in most cases it has gotten worse. Pretending that it doesn’t exist or that it will fix itself helps in the destruction it is causing. Avoiding the truth, no matter how painful it is, not only proves one’s questionable morality, but also shows one’s sense of reality, or lack thereof. However, reality can bite back in ways that will disturb one’s comfort level for a very long time.