Internalizing Racism: The Profound Tutu


I think an under-discussed aspect of institutional racism and in some respects, individual-to-individual racism is the way in which it internalizes and self-actualizes.

I was listening to Desmond Tutu, the Anglican bishop, most noted for his activism in South Africa during apartheid on the podcast On Being and as an aside, he’s lovely. I could listen to him talk all day with his humor, infectious laugh and wisdom. He’s great.

But anyway, he told an anecdote about how he boarded a plane and for the first time, the pilots were black. He’d never seen black pilots. His first thought was, “There’s no white pilot in there, I wonder if they can handle it.”

Years and years of being told that blacks were inferior and couldn’t handle things had internalized. It’s a powerful expression of just how entrenched racism can be. Once the self is diminished, they have you.

Here’s a good quote from him, “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.”


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