“The Color of Fear” is not just black and white

Did you know that more people believe that Elvis is alive than that racism exists? This was presented to an audience of students and faculty by Latino Community Program Coordinator Jorge Zeballos after the showing of a documentary about racism today.

On Nov. 3, the Multicultural Education Department and the Center for Principled Problem Solving presented the powerful “The Color of Fear.”

The film follows a weekend retreat involving nine men of different races who ae able to express the anger and pain they feel when criticized for being a certain race.

“This whole process started hundreds of years ago,” said Latino Community Program Coordinator Jorge Zeballos. “Here we are in 2011 and we’re still trying to get to the basic level of understanding of what racism is.”

The audience sees how racism can get under the skin of those who face it. One individual in the film, an African-American man named Victor Lewis, starts screaming and powerfully asserting how difficult to defend people like him when they have been discriminated against because he must often keep his tongue in check.

“There’s no other coherent reaction to racism but be enraged by it,” said Zeballos.

During the after-film discussion, one woman spoke about how she still repeats things she has heard over and over again during her lifetime. For her it got to a point where hearing it so many times made what was being said a reality. By making the words a reality, they become the stereotypes that are placed on a group.

According to the film, racism tends to be an internal conflict between different minority groups, not just a conflict between a white majority and specific minorities. For example, the two Asian men involved in the retreat had always heard that African Americans are lazy and stupid, which creates tension between the two groups.

“Just think how many opportunities there are here at Guilford to learn about issues of race and how to understand so that we can see it for ourselves and not wait on a person of color to point it out to us,” said Judith Harvey, engaged teaching and learning specialist.

Regardless, people are not always as proactive as Harvey would like them to be, a point that “The Color of Fear” illustrated for the audience. David Christensen, a white man who was part of the retreat in the film, could not fully understand why people can be so cruel to their own kind. At the same time, it seemed that he did not want to believe that racism actually exists in the world until the other men pointed out that it really does happen.

Toward the end of the film, the audience learned to have sympathy for Christensen when he explained this is how he learned to mask his own pain from having a racist father while growing up.

“If you have no safe place to actually express the anger, all kinds of toxic stuff begins to develop in you,” said Zeballos.

During the discussion, Zeballos told the audience that people are conditioned to be racist and should not beat themselves up about it if they should accidentally make a mistake. Because racism has been embedded in the heads of American people for so long, it will take a very long time before anything is resolved.

“(Racism) is supposed to be something that takes time and it’s systematic and it’s something that you do on a typical basis,” said senior Alexandra Stroud. “But at the same time you want so bad for everybody to understand that it almost feels futile. … It’s so huge and so real.”