On Racism

What is racist, and what is not? I am white. When I first meet an asian, a black, a native American, or any member of a different race than mine, that is probably the first thing I notice. With that recognition comes a flood of stereotypes. I suspect this is a universal trait of human beings. But I am only guessing. It may only indicate being a white American. Or maybe only an American of this era.

Does that alone make me a racist? I doubt it. There is a certain evolutionary advantage to being aware of things which distinguish you from the other. “Racist” is a comparative term. Unfortunately we are the least qualified to make the evaluation when we, ourselves, are being evaluated. Virtually none of us is racist in our own evaluation.

My parents, in my judgment, were racist, although they would have never admited to that. And, in the comparative sense, they probably were not. Raised in the rural south before the civil rights era, they were Christian and subscribed to all things Christ taught, which included all kinds of messages of equality amongst people. But when you subscribe to too much, there is always something that gets overlooked.

When I was a newcomer to Dunsmuir, where we moved when I was only five or six, there was a black girl in our class that was more alive and open than all the rest by leagues. She was my best friend at first. One day we were driving down the main highway through town when we passed Gloria on the street. I leaned out the window and shouted her name. She didn’t hear me, so I shouted again, louder. Still she didn’t hear me. With more urgency I shouted again, waving.

Almost immediately, someone pulled me inside, apparently on orders from the front seat. The teasing based on the theme that George has a black girlfriend began immediately. In a second, though the ridicule lasted for weeks, I learned that liking Gloria was not an option. It was not an option because she was black.

I’ve always wanted sex to reflect love. I wish Gloria had been included in that desire, but she was  not. I quickly erected barriers from that day forward. Like it or not, that makes me a racist. I’ve never slept with a black woman, though it has long been a fantasy.

Last week, when I posted about racism in our current culture and its likely outcome of civil war, interesting questions were raised in the comments.

One seemed to assume that I thought officer Wilson is guilty of gunning Michael Brown down in cold blood. I don’t have any idea, That remains a mystery, for the jury trail, which I believe the survivors of the tragedy clearly deserve, will not now be held, thanks largely to a deeply racist society.

I have many relatives in law enforcement, and not insignificant personal experience in potentially dangerous neighborhoods. I understand completely the potential of fear for one’s life when yours is the only white face in hundreds of yards, whether you have a gun or not. But, nonetheless, Michael Brown’s parents deserved a level playing field, and they clearly didn’t get it.

Until the white race can see that, the danger of being labeled as racist is real and justified. I don’t know whether the heightened degree of racism that seems to be evident in Missouri versus what may, or may not, be evident in Ohio, played any role in the absence of riots there in the face of a new name being added to the list I suggested last week. The same question might be asked of anywhere in the U.S. The fact is the list is long, and gets longer all the time.

Yet that such a list exists and continues to grow is evidence enough that white America needs to awaken before it is forced to.

That we obscure these issues in the finer details of each case is no excuse. (One comment objected to listing Michael brown and Trayvon Martin with Emmet Till–no mention was made of Dr. King–presumably because of the details of the incidences surrounding each event as perceived from afar). The issue of rampant racism in America is far greater than any individual case. As I said: racism in America is very alive and well.

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One Response to On Racism

  1. Dallas Smith says:

    Sad to say, yes, racism is alive in America. I grew up in Georgia, in the segregated South. I never had a personal friendship with a black person until I was at the (integrated) university in Florida. I had previously thought that the South had transferred its racist sentiments toward gays and away from blacks. But Obama’s presidency has shown that many people have the capacity to hate any group that isn’t like them, especially blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and gays.

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