Operation Understanding DC (Micah)

Through Conscious Thinking We Can Be Aware of Stereotypes and Battle Racism”

By Micah Guthrie

Background Information
In our second week of TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program, we were visited by Operation Understanding D.C. (OUDC). OUDC is an organization that gathers 6 African-American and 6 Jewish juniors in high school, educates them in African-American and Jewish history, and travels through historic places throughout north-east and southern America to create a generation of discriminatory aware and racism fighting students. “To build a generation of African American and Jewish community leaders who promote respect, understanding and cooperation while working to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.”

Our Experience
We were led in activities by OUDC alumni Jake and Ezra. Our first activity was a very long process. We split into two groups, and in our groups we all held a hand that was not next to us. Our goal was to untangle ourselves from the knot we created without letting go of each others’ hands. For the result of success, the activity truly required getting rid of stereotypes and just treating others as human beings. There were no assumptions of anyone because of how they looked or dressed, it was just friends trying to untangle themselves. After a long and successful untangle we did an activity where we were split into groups and listed stereotypes of a given group of people on a list. The other groups would guess what kind of people these stereotypes were describing. After this we went over why we have these stereotypes. The answer is that it is natural. As soon as you see someone you don’t know you immediately try to figure them out. Stereotypes end up being part of these examinations without knowing. So since we can’t avoid these stereotypes, the alumni gave a list of practices we can use in our everyday lives to lessen our stereotypes.

  1. Deal with stereotypes – Understand everyone, including yourself, thinks of stereotypes. It is natural.
  2. Examine our beliefs and where they come from – Where do these assumptions come from? Are they really true, despite whether they’re positive or negative?
  3. Very conscious and intentional thinking – Be aware of what you’re thinking, because stereotypes don’t come from nothing.
  4. We can change our beliefs and ways of thinking – Now that we know our stereotypes exist, they don’t have to stay. You can change your belief in your stereotype.
  5. Increase our options of how we choose to interact with others – Now that you are sensitive and have accepted the change, when you see someone new you can change the way you approach them without assuming they’re someone else.

The Big Idea
Our group thought the biggest idea we learned from OUDC was that “Through conscious thinking we can be aware of stereotypes and battle racism.” We believed conscious thinking and being aware of your own assumptions was the most important part of getting rid of your stereotypes, because without knowing you’re doing it, the problem of having wrong ideas of another person and not treating them fairly will be ignored.

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