Like the post on war, this is a post I don’t write with joy. I write because sadly, it still needs to be said. But here I do not write in the anguish that I might hurt people I care about. I frankly don’t give a damn. For if you are hurt by what I say, then you damn well need to hurt because this shit has gone on quite long enough.
I don’t speak from some high mountain of arrogance, for I was raised in a racist environment where such things were taken for granted. I cast racial slurs as a child, mimicking the adults around me. No black face walked the halls of my high school or walked my neighborhoods let alone lived within it.
I was a child of the Civil Rights Movement, but surely not old enough to realize its importance at the time. Common sense, much touted as of late by a number of uneducated and thus defensive people I know, was not enough to show me or my friends and family that separating people by something so silly as skin color was stupid. It was not until I moved into the world and interacted with people of color that I realized the insanity of discrimination.
Later, I spent better than twenty years, living among, working with, loving, and befriending hundreds of people of color and I saw all the more clearly how warped we become when we use such elements as divisions rather than celebrations of diversity.
We, in our days of college, when we sipped of the vine of how the world ought to be, and would be under our tutelage, sincerely believed that all this would be behind us in the next generation, long gone by the 80’s, or at least by the 90’s.
There are a variety of reasons why this did not happen. Those who remained unexposed to integration through much of their adulthood did not move on to that better place. Much of it can be put at the feet of a misunderstanding of the role of truth and how it plays across the spectrum of the human psyche.
Those of us who are rational beings, driven by facts and rational conclusions think evidence, facts, and reasoned argument will carry the day. Truth changes mind we surmise.
But alas, it truly does not for a great portion of individuals. Study after study today shows that people in general, but most especially the conservative mind refuses to accept “facts” once their minds are made up. In fact, they become even more set in their error the more you present them with facts. They come up with all sorts of irrational reasons why they need not accept your data. It is flawed (without explaining how), usually by being the product of “the liberal press”, a thing that in reality is hard to define, and harder to actually find.
When attacked for their intransigence, the bigot gets predictably defensive. Liberals are accused of “always playing the race card”. Worse, they attempt to adopt MLK as one of their own (he was a Republican they shout), but the ONLY phrase they know of all the things he said was the hope that someday little children would be “judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.” This they fervently insist is what they do. It’s not their fault that most of “those black people” whether they be young black men in low-hanging jeans, or incarcerated young black men, or poor women paying with food-stamps just “happen” to have no good character.
They are blind to the racism they exhibit even honestly, to the degree that they now accuse liberals of being the racists. This comes from the usual cesspool of right-wing media efforts used to gin up their fear while at the same time sanctifying their hate. Suddenly the Democratic Party “uses” blacks for votes while keeping them enslaved. Presumably Democrats and liberals in general aren’t versed in the “tough love” that conservatives know needs be employed to force “these people” to stand up for themselves and take charge of their lives in the white American” way. There are always the black Toms willing to dance to the conservative tune in return for a pretence of acceptance and a moment in the spotlight.
Nobody, it is true, wishes to face their own irrational hatred. Conservatives can be forgiven in some sense for their failures, but that does not mean that we can stop pushing back against the insidious evil of their defenses.
America is still racist. And it may be that it will remain so for a good long time to come, until at least every vestige of “that’s the way those people are” is eradicated from the family conversation. When aunt Carole and grandpa George have finally died and their anecdotes have finally vanished from family memory, maybe we can get beyond this ugly impasse.
The nativism which strangles us today in the guise of a vocal and ugly minority who can’t stop railing against “illegals” will, with the turn of time and the grace of God, be stamped down once again and relegated to the dust bin as it should be. Immigrants, ALL illegals at one time, built this country into what it is today. We cannot escape ourselves no matter how much we run. Meanwhile, millions suffer from the ubiquitous “other” leveled at them in the guise of “illegal” and cantaloupe calves”.
Ferguson shows us white folks what black folks have always known. We are deeply racist, unconsciously and consciously so. We make jokes at the expense of people based solely on their color, though we quickly give excuses as to why it’s about something else. That in itself should alert us that we still are diseased.
The abuses of Ferguson are appalling. They “shock the conscience” as the Supreme Court once announced. Yet they are not news to African-Americans ANYWHERE in America. It is not shocking to many of us whites either, at least those of us who have close ties to minority groups and have experienced first hands the uneven-handedness of law enforcement vis-a-vis black and brown communities.
This racism which is still so rampant has lain dormant in the public mind for decades. In some real sense Obama’s presidency has brought these things to the forefront. The incessant clamor by some members of the hardest of Right wing apologists that Obama is not a “real” American, not like us, not American at all, but Kenyan, not a Christian, thereby raising a religious test the opposite of that which faced John F. Kennedy regarding concerns about his Catholicism, has ironically brought forth exactly what they did not want. People are talking about the elephant in the room again.
So in some sense, the ugly racism expressed by the Tea Party at their rallies with their placards, and the “jokes” discovered in emails of elected Republicans, has served to bring the issue back to the fore. People who from some insane sick place in their minds refer to the President of the United States as the “anti-Christ” and a “monkey” have reaped their own whirlwind.
They have done the fine job of reminding us who have become complacent, that indeed this is not a post-racial world at all.
When I hear people become indignant that this official or that one fails to tout American exceptionalism, I cringe. With a history such as ours, starting with the near genocide of our Native Peoples, where do we get this notion of being exceptional? America started out an amazing dream, yet we had already begun our destruction of Native Peoples before we began. And we continued it and racism long after, flouting in some real sense the flowery language of Jefferson’s Declaration. We may forgive Jefferson as a man of his time, for the “all men are created equal” not meaning either women or men of color, but we cannot forgive that that failure proceeded to this very day.
People who have to “blame” some “others” for their own failures in life, must get up the courage to face themselves and their racism. They must admit that they have and do judge people based on a physical reaction to the color of their skin. Judgements are made immediately about their value, their likely occupation, and a whole host of attributes which are then barriers that must be overcome before they consider them in any way, “equal.” And in most cases this equality doesn’t extend to welcoming “them” into their families as relatives, or close friends.
There is no scientific evidence that color has anything to do with intelligence. Racial distinctions are not scientific by any standard, but are political constructions made for reasons of discrimination.
As much as it may pain you to alter your thinking, you must do it. Justice demands it. And decency demands it. God demands it. Stop the madness. HONOR SELMA!