I don't know how to handle racism within a single race, and I'm not talking about Jeff Foxworthy jibes about his own "Red neck" breed. I've seen bleach soaps marketed towards South Western Asians intended to lighten skin, and I've heard how beautiful and "fair" girls can be, but how do we stop such perceptions?
I have been stunned over the years of teaching to hear the following comments made about black individuals BY black individuals:
In college- "You gonna be RA? Maybe of the ghetto." Said mockingly of a young African-American girl who aspired to be the residential assistant on the freshman floor at the dorms. The bully laughed at her every time she raised her hand to answer a question in class and said she was trying too hard to be "white". The girl passed, the bully didn't.
In a junior high school- "He not cute, he too black."
Also in a JH- "The light skinneded girls are pretty. You is a monkey." A dark skinned girl I taught was mocked frequently by a lighter skinned peer. I frequently hear students refer to each other as monkeys. Oh and the additional 'ed' in "skinneded" is intentional.
In high school- "She tryin' to sound white, like she better than us." Said of an African-American female I worked with one year.
Also in HS- "Why Ms. So-and-So act so white all the time? She always pickin' on me."
Also in HS- "He retarded. They shouldn't let black people teach, they stupid. We black and he should help us, let us do what we want, let us play around." Said YESTERDAY about an African-American teacher who runs a very tight ship and teaches quite well.
When I first began teaching here in the States, I told students who said such things that I would not tolerate racist comments in my presence and that I can't believe people would say such things about their own race. Leaving out the whole calling-each-other-the-n-word thing, I was surprised they would perpetuate something their grandparents had fought so hard to rid themselves of. Oh, but it's not racism, apparently they can say that about each other- they laugh in response. I asked one of our recent previous bosses once, an African-American man, what should I do? How should I respond to this? He laughed and didn't really have an answer. I like the boss I have right now much better.
It is so damaging to hear any sort of bullying, let alone a form whose sole intention is to make a child feel ashamed of his/her African-American heritage. I continue to tell them to stop, and I continue to get the laughing in response, but at least I let the bullied student know that I won't stand for that kind of crap, that I will stand up for him/her and that I believe them capable of what others may not.