Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Racism in America 1: Admit It

Racism exists in America. It's a fact.

We have all seen the tragedy of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and have heard of the several other prominent deaths of black people by citizens or police officers in the last few months. One person (I cannot remember who and I apologize) said so clearly: "Racism has always existed; now people are filming it."

I have been one of those conservative people who has never denied the existence of racism in America. But even I didn't really stop to consider how widespread the problem has been.

What we are seeing is two different types of racism. The first is what we consider blatant racism. This is the individuals who are not afraid to tell a person of color that they do not like them simply because they are of a different color. They have submitted to the idea that Caucasian people are "superior" to people of color, for one reason or another. I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone can think this way.

But obviously, they had to think this way to send ships over to Africa to take people from their land and enslave them. I have never been more disgusted writing a sentence in my life than the last one. We know that they wanted to use the blacks to improve the productivity of their plantations, but that doesn't make a person mentally go to the extent of thinking of a person as less-than-human.

This attitude probably stems from the nationalistic ideas of old. Many of us think of America as the superior country in the world, but not because its people are better, but because of what our country stands for and how successful we've been at fighting for freedom and in some cases saving the world from evils. (Our nation's propensity for war is the subject of another blog post someday.) On the other hand, the old way of thinking has always been that the person's country was superior because they were superior. This is why there have been so many wars for so many thousands of years: it wasn't until America when a country was built around people of all types being considered as equal, regardless of race.

Well, at least that's what the formal documents said. Slavery of blacks was rampant in the south, Catholics were considered the scum of the earth, and the nation was formed directly over the top of indigenous peoples' lands, using the logic that it only made sense, since the people groups were all pagans, primitive, and not organized as one nation. And although the grammar of the day used "men" to mean people in general, the heart behind that grammar choice had always been rooted in the chauvinistic ideas that men were superior to women and therefore were not, in fact, equal.

So from the start you have a nation with the right ideas, but no actual application of those ideas. Nobody sat themselves down and asked, "Are we living like these words we are declaring?"

And that leads us to the second type of racism I mentioned earlier. There is a sort of subtle racism that people have carried throughout these ages, most of which goes unnoticed. People who are not overtly "racist" can have thoughts, actions, or tendencies which contain varying levels of racism in them. Some of this is what is being called systematic racism, the idea that the system is inherently racist and we are all just perpetuating it.

Is it really that extreme? I can't give you a true answer. And the reason is because, for so many years, many of us would not stop to talk about racism, or stop to look inside ourselves to see if there is anything in ourselves which could be perpetuating this.

This series of blog posts will deal with this issue of racism, with the intention of each of us looking inside ourselves to see if we are unintentionally furthering this racism. Many of you will discover that you are living a life free of being overtly racist. But you may notice nuances or details which are slanted toward you as being a certain race. This is what people refer to as "privilege," and I believe the first step to deconstructing these edifices in our world is admitting that privilege exists. This is what the second post will cover.

The first thing that needs to happen, however, is for each of us to admit that maybe racism is a bigger deal in America than we think it is. Since many of us believe that we are not racist, and believe that America stands for equality for everyone (with its clearly stated rights and all), we've never taken the time to really stop and analyze ourselves and our life structure. What looks really good in our own eyes may look very different in the eyes of someone who is in a different position. The ability to look at things from a different perspective than our own is something that does not come naturally. It is a choice. And once we change that perspective and see that things may not be as hunky-dunky as we think they are, only then will real change finally happen.

So please, read these posts with an open mind and an open heart.

To black people, I will repeat the often said statement that I truly mean: I cannot understand what you are going through, but I will listen and I will try to understand as best as I can.

To white people, I ask that you lower your pride. Admitting we might have a problem is not destructive but is in fact constructive. We better ourselves, our society, and most importantly, we lift others up to that same place which we have never truly deserved, and should have always shared with those of a different color.

And to all other people who do not fit in one of these two categories, you may share in some of both of these positions. None of us are perfect, and none of us are without hardship. But with this intentional effort to try to kill racism in America once and for all, we may pull ourselves closer to the letter of our Pledge of Allegiance: a nation "with liberty and justice for all."

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