Racism is dumb.
Let’s get that out there from the start. Why would anyone hate or dislike someone simply because the skin on that person has or doesn’t have a certain amount of melanin? And why would we say that everyone who shares that skin type behaves or acts or thinks or feels a certain way because of the melanin in the skin?
Racism is stupid.
This story is about one such stupid person. He was born in Alabama in the early 1960s. His family, while not rich, employed a Black woman as a maid and helper around the house since the mother had mobility issues. The man’s dad, a building contractor, had a Black man to run errands for the mother and drive her to places during the day that she or the children might need to go. So, he was born into a culture where people of darker skin were the servants, the ones who did the work for the people of lighter skin. Now, you might argue that this isn’t enough to make someone think themselves better or superior to someone else, but it certainly creates a feeling that there is an order to things, a certain hierarchy in the way things work.
Racism is part of America’s culture.
The culture around this man echoed this pecking order. He says he remembers vividly a time in the mid-1960s, when he must have been 4 or 5 years old, and he accidently entered the “wrong” restroom in a train station. At the time, there were usually three public facilities in train and bus stations–labeled Women, Men, and Colored. He tells the story that an older Black man gently led him out of the Colored restroom, saying, “You’re in the wrong place, little man.” Things like that tend to stick with one and form the attitudes we have towards other people. If society decides to segregate, then who am I to question, the man later reasoned.
Racism tells lies.
Now, this man would defend his racist mentality by arguing that he wasn’t racist; he was merely prejudiced. Racist people sometimes do this to salve their consciences. “No,” they will say, “I don’t hate anyone, but I can’t help but feel that they all…” and then a list of racist stereotypes usually follow that broadly apply to whoever “they” are. This is racism, no matter how we try to convince ourselves that it is not.
Racism can be insidious.
This man and his friends will insist, when asked, that minority groups in the United States are racist. This “what aboutism” is also another attempt to soothe the racist psyche. This argument deflects from them having to confront their own hatred and, at the same time, makes them feel more justified in keeping that hatred in their hearts. Most of their so-called evidence for this racism is anecdotal at best: “My buddy got fired because they had to hire a minority.” Ok, if that’s true, why do you think they had to do that? Do you think the company/boss simply pointed to your buddy and told him to take a hike because he was white? The same laws that protect minorities from discrimination also protect people in the majority from it as well. But that doesn’t feed into the racist narrative, does it?
Racism is a bully.
Another thing this racist man wonders is, “Why is there a Black History Month? Why isn’t there a White History Month?” Really? Do we have to explain that the contributions to our society and nation by minorities, especially Black Americans, have been marginalized, appropriated, and minimized for the past 400 years? And how is your life affected by simply recognizing the fact that minorities have been instrumental in creating the life that you enjoy detrimental to your well-being and life situation?
Racism is alive and well, sadly.
The comedian Louis C.K. (who has his issues on other topics, for sure) reminds us quite correctly that racism is part of our past and therefore part of our present as well. It cannot be, should not be, must not be ignored. We must insure that are not voting for someone who is an obvious or even possible racist because to do so is to invest our power in the hands of someone who hates another person. We must speak about racism and work against racism and, if needed, march and petition and vote and fight like hell to recognize, call out, and, one blessed day, end racism.
And, what about our racist man in this story?
Well, the racism that is within me is dying–but not as quickly as I’d like it to.