We can deny a thing, but this does not make it any less true. Racism exists and continues to shape America, and while some still dispute this, it remains a fact. Can we, as a people, overcome this legacy, or is the nation doomed to repeat the same mistakes repeatedly, inventing new tragedies along the way?
Racism is more than one thing.
There are different kinds of racism, but at it’s core is a generalization, a stereotype, which is used to define an entire group of people based upon ethnicity. It is limiting, reducing the content of a person’s character to the color of their skin.
When racism is codified, when the promise of equal protection under the law is broken, the country itself is undermined.Police officers shoot and kill unarmed kids without consequence. Racial profiling. Gerrymandering in minority areas to split up districts so that the vote is diluted. The inequities in our Criminal Justice system in which black offenders are far more likely than Anglos to receive harsh sentences. The disparity in funding for schools and education between affluent areas and inner cities. Institutional racism dates back to the origins of our country, when slaves were deemed to be less than human. The Emancipation Proclamation began to address this, and the Jim Crow laws were finally repealed, and the Voting Rights Act was a great step toward dismantling institutional racism. It lingers, still, though, and all you have to do is flip through cable news to see it.
This is directly linked to economics. Poverty perpetuates racism. Lack of jobs, education, and opportunity creates an endless cycle. A war on poverty is also a war on racism; this is the battle we need to be fighting, not a war against eachother.
Racism is part of the American psyche, woven into our collective history. It thrives in the South, but is by no means limited by geography. Stereotypes, played out again and again on television and movies, in music and the stories that the news decides to focus on, reinforce this kind of racism. This works both ways, too. In many black communities, there is a distrust of white people, of the police, and the feeling that not only is their voice not heard, but that it does not matter. This distrust, distaste, this sense of unfairness spills into the streets, simmering in the shadows until it explodes with violence.
Each person must make the choice to be color-blind. It starts with us. If collectively we choose to see a person for who they are, not by the color of their skin or the clothes they wear or the car they drive, then racism will cease to plague the nation.
Closet racists are the worst. They fill a pew on Sunday morning and spew hatred on Sunday night. They choose sides, rather than choosing a person. They don’t consider themselves to be racist, yet their actions prove otherwise, their veiled condescension, the hypocrisy they wear like a coat. When the media seizes upon cases like Trayvon Martin or the killing in Ferguson, these are the people who assume that a kid deserved to die, rather than question their own beliefs or the facts of the case. They call in to talk shows like Rush Limbaugh, hide behind anonymity on social media, and broadcast hatred and division with snarky memes and mean headlines.
If this continues…
The country is becoming increasingly diverse. America has always been a melting pot, but it’s been the rich white folks who have made policy decisions since our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. As time goes on, the balance of power will shift. It’s already happening, and there is much screaming and gnashing of teeth over this fact. It’s inevitable, though. Within two generations, white folks are going to be in the minority.
There have been calls for civil war, revolt, secession, assassination and violence from extremists who are terrified of the changes coming to America. Rather than work within the system, they seem to want to break it entirely. This kind of thinking is seditious, dangerous, and gaining traction. As we move into the next election cycle, it’s going to get even worse.
We need to vote for responsible leaders, and do it in every single election.
But people are decent and good, for the most part...
The next generation will be better than mine. My kids don’t really see race. I think each subsequent generation will improve upon the one before, and that with time, the lingering vestiges of racism can be stamped out. It takes time, effort, and teaching our children. It takes honest dialogue and love for one another.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Check out my books on Amazon! Next year, The Tears of Abraham will be published, a novel about the coming American Civil War.