Racism And Collective Memory

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Across generations, memory culminates and turns into collective memory that is outside, but influences, an individual 's memory. Maurice Halbwachs ([1950] 1992) argues that “individual memories are only understood through a group context” (Brekhus 2015:147), stating that memory is an absolute sociological concept. Each group dictates their memory to match their present understanding. Therefore, according to Paul Ricoeur (1984; 1988), memories do not linearly follow time, and, instead, follows it phenomenologically. Individuals psychologically use schemas that are formed by groups and these schemas enable and limit their memory. Collective memory is a cultural element of society and affects racial inequality in modern-day America. In particular,…show more content…
It is no longer common, and encouraged, to yell out the n-word to bystanding blacks and lynchings are no longer routine. Nevertheless, implicit racism is rife throughout American society. People continue to walk across the street when they see a black person coming or silently accuse a black person of stealing by following them in a store. More latent examples include microaggressions, like people calling my friend Marcus an oreo because he does not fit the stereotype of being black. My father and his wife fail to see implicit racism as an issue because they witnessed “real” racism. When I was home after the 2016 presidential election, my dad told me “we have very different definitions of racism” and it finally opened my eyes on why there is such a gap between us. The racism he witnessed was completely different than the racism I currently witness. My father and his wife have a different collective memory than I do, sorted by generation. Living during the civil rights movement imprinted them with a convincing memory that affects the way they think today. My father and his wife “remember things similarly to one another (and differently from other generations) on the basis of their shared generational standpoints and experiences of world events” (Brekhus 2015:150). Their definition of racism is restrictive and perpetuates racial inequality in modern American society. If there are multiple definitions of racism, conversation between the angry blue-collared whites and marginalized communities will go nowhere. However, it is the job of whites to bridge the gap and they can do so by being aware, educated, and compassionate of
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