In a ThoughtCo. article written by Nada Kareem Nittle, internalized racism is described as minorities taking on a white supremacist mindset, resulting in self-hatred and the hatred of their own racial group.
“In a society where racial prejudice thrives in politics, communities, institutions, and popular culture, it’s difficult for people of color to avoid absorbing the racist messages that constantly bombard them,” Nittle writes.
It can be a difficult idea to understand for those who have not experienced it, Nittle describes it as “Stockholm syndrome in the racial sphere.”
The first time I recall practicing internalized racism toward myself was in third grade.
I had just switched to a new school a little before then. I remember looking around and thinking there were a lot of kids who all had similar features–I felt ashamed I was not one of them.
It was “Grandparents’ Day” at school and I was lucky enough to have my grandparents back then, and even luckier they wanted to come to school with me. I should have been so excited. Right?
I was not. I remember not being able to sleep the night before because I was so nervous kids would make fun of my grandparents for having accents or for looking how they did. The next day rolled around and everything seemed fine, but after my grandparents left, a few kids started asking me questions.
I was so embarrassed. I told them I was only half Mexican and that my white grandparents could not make it, which was not true- all four of my grandparents are Mexican. I went on to talk to them about how I did not know anything about Mexican culture and how I had never even been there. Both of these things are also not true.
It bothers me to think I was so afraid to be proud of who I am.
I went to predominantly white schools my whole life. I think that is why it took me so long to be loud and proud about my ethnic identity. I let internalized racism get the best of me up until the end of high school.
It is sad to think of the years I wasted being embarrassed by not only myself but also my family. I would do anything to go back and spend time with my grandparents in elementary school without feeling embarrassed. However, my experience is by no means unique.
I would be lying if I said I have completely overcome my own personal internalized racism, I still notice it in my daily thoughts. It can be difficult to overcome things like this in a country that makes it so difficult to feel like you belong American ideal when you do not perfectly align with the white. It is important to remember you are not alone, and being “different” is a good thing.
Something I have found helpful in accepting my culture was surrounding myself with other people who can relate, but sometimes you will be the only person of color in the room.