Hello there! Today we are going to talk about something that not very many adults like to talk about, and that is racism.
You have probably already heard of the word racism before. Racism happens when people believe that certain races or ethnicities have or do things that other races or ethnicities don’t. To give you a quick example of racism, back when America was first made light-skin colored people held dark-skin colored people as slaves because they thought dark-skin colored people were not as “good” as them. This was perhaps one of the biggest problems with racism in the entire history of the United States.
Along with racism comes stereotyping. Stereotyping means to believe that people or things which have some things in common are all the same. For example, a stereotype would be something like “some balls bounce, so that means that all balls are bouncy”. Although some balls are bouncy (like basketballs or tennis balls), some balls are not bouncy (like golf balls or bowling balls). So saying all balls are bouncy is a stereotype. See what I mean?
People around the world look different because they are adapted to live in different places. If you take a look at the map of the earth below, you will notice that people who are from places closer to the equator (the line that runs through the middle of the earth from side to side) have darker colored skin than people who are from places closer to the north and south pole.
Why do you think is the reason for this? The picture below shows the earth and the sun. Notice how the part that is labeled “Equator” is closer it the sun than the part labeled “north pole”? Also, look at the arrows that are labeled “Sunlight”. It looks like the equator gets more direct sunlight right? Since the parts of the Earth that are along the equator line are closer to the sun AND get more direct sunlight, people’s bodies adapt by making more melanin in the skin. Melanin is like your own natural sunblock, and makes the skin look darker. People who live closer to the equator need more of this “sunblock” that your body makes because they get more direct sunlight compared to someone at the north or south pole. For this reason, people who live along the equator line have darker skin. Pretty cool how your body works, right?
Let’s look at leopards for a minute. There are several types of leopards, and each kind looks a little different because they live in different parts of the world. The Indian Leopard is an orange-brown color with a cream-colored belly and dark spots. This fur color helps it camouflage better with tree trunks, branches, dry grass, and whatever else might be where it lives. The snow leopard has white fur with black spots. This fur color helps it survive in the snowy climates because they are able to camouflage much easier. Why is it important for the leopards to be able to camouflage with its surroundings? Leopards need to be able to hide when they are hunting so they can catch their food to eat and survive. Imagine how hard it must be if a bright yellow leopard with purple spots tried to hunt in a snowy place! They probably would not be able to catch any food and die.
Just like animals such as the leopards look different depending on where they live, so do people. Sure, people don’t need to hunt for food or camouflage with our surroundings, but our skin has adapted itself to protect ourselves from the sun’s burning rays.
Now there might be one big question going through your head right now: How come in the United States there are so many people of all kinds of different skin colors? America is made of millions of people who have migrated (migrate: to come or go to a different place) from different places all over the world. As a result, you are able to learn by experience about lots and lots of different cultures and races. Imagine America as a huge pot, and people from all over the world are like the different ingredients that make one big soup, or in this case, one big diverse country.
Just because a light skin-colored person has lived in a place closer to the equator doesn’t mean that they are going to get dark-colored skin, and if a dark skin-colored person doesn’t get lighter skin by living away from the poles. This is because of your genetics. Genetics are like a recipe that tells your body how it is supposed to look, and once your “recipe” has been written it can’t be changed. That makes you even more unique, don’t you think?
Racism and stereotyping does not only apply to skin color; it also applies to eye shapes, hair color and texture, height, weight, and lots of other things. Maybe we can talk about some of these another day.
To wrap this up here is the important thing you need to remember: racism and stereotyping are a very mean and offensive form of bullying. It does not matter if you are of European, African, Asian, or Hispanic descent, underneath that layer of skin we are all the same. If you see someone getting made fun of for the color of their skin, stand up for them and be a friend! You now know that all skin color means is how much melatonin (sunblock that your body makes) a person has, and that it is the way our bodies protect themselves from getting hurt by the sun’s rays. If you are the one getting bullied because of your skin color, talk to an adult so they can explain to your bully that there is nothing wrong or different about you. We are very lucky to be living in a time where racism is seen as bad and that there are millions of people who stand up against racism. So stand up for each other and for yourselves, and know that together we can create a world where racism no longer exists.