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My View on Racism

March 20, 2015

I’m not much of a joiner; groups give me the heebie-jeebies, so my view may be tainted. I admit that up front…

There has been a lot of news about Starbuck’s CEO wanting to spark conversation about racism in his stores. <Shrug> Conversation is always good, so have at it. Too bad I’ve never followed the crowd to Starbucks…

I think there’s a fundamental problem, however, in our thoughts on racism. It’s group-think. We are ipso-facto starting every discussion with “All black people experience…” And that’s just not true.

Racism is like discussion of “normal.” There is no normal. Everyone is unique. The racism I experience (and yes, I’ve experience some – lost a promised job because I was white and my over-ambitious boss decided to get rid of all white managers in favor of managers-of-color, whether they were competent or not) is different than what that guy experiences, which is different than that woman…

A disturbing (and disturbed) caller on a radio program proclaimed all Republican black people hated themselves. They pretend not to be black. When the host caller her racist, she said she couldn’t be, because she had no power (wrong again, she was talking to thousands of people at that moment). How vile that a person should think that there is a black ideal or a white ideal and anyone who strays from the ideal is a traitor.

Some people experience horrendous racism in this country. Some just a little bit. Some not at all. The racists in one part of the country are different than those in other parts. How can a blanket conversation have any affect?

Is anyone else stunned by the truly crippling burden we’ve placed on people who accept that racism is the cause for their place in life. When I’m slighted because I did something stupid, I know it. When a black person who accepts the idea of uniform racism screws up, he has to ask himself, “did I screw up or was it racism?” I’m no saint; give me that kind of out and I’d take it. Circumstances would never help me improve by owning up to my failings. It would never be my fault! And what about the backwash? “White privilege” says white people never excel because they’re good, only because they’re white.

In college, I did pretty well. Classes (other than math) were easy. I remember a classmate terrified of getting a D or F, saying, “You have it easy, professors always give you an A.” I was ticked. Professors didn’t give me As. I earned them. While writing papers came easy, I still had to do it. I had to work. But I also had to admit, my professors expected me to do well and they expected Tony to fail (Tony was white, by the way). I did well, though, because I’d applied myself since I was a kid AND because the style of learning worked for me. Did that make me “privileged?” No, but it did make me “preferred.” If I turned in an A- paper, I might get an A. But if I wrote a B- paper, I’d get nailed for it. So please don’t use the race-baiting term “White Privilege” and use, if you must, “White Preference,” which few could contest.

Racism is a thing. I don’t think it’s as big a thing as people think (though it’s worse for some people). I don’t know that global or national conversations mean a hill of beans, because it needs to be addressed on an individual level.

And I know this is going to hit the wrong way, but SOME people need to get over it. Yes, others may be “preferred,” but they also have things working against them (ask the Hare in the old fable the Tortoise and the Hare). Racism is insurmountable for some racists, but for the racee, they need to accept it is a challenge they need to overcome. I’m reminded of a story from the first modern Olympics. The US shot-putter had no idea how heavy the shot was supposed to be, so the team went with the weight of the ancient Olympic shots. The poor guy couldn’t get it to go very far; their scouts said other country’s shots were triple his distance. At the event that no one expected him to win, they handed him a shot that was half the weight he used to practice. He “put” the thing yards beyond his opponents and won the only American Gold medal. Unfair disadvantages bite the big one, but with the right mindset, they can make a person stronger (I’m going to bring up Ben Carson as an example, despite his current gaffes. He is a master example of what I’m talking about. And allow me to build a bridge; I’m not talking about lynchings or beatings, or even a subculture that thinks it can break laws and cry foul when they’re treated like criminals; that, like all racism should be eradicated with extreme prejudice).

Morgan Freeman, Ben Carson, and a million other successful black people prove racism can be overcome. Bill Cosby (I know, I know) has stated that racism won’t go away until we STOP talking about it. I won’t go that far, but we should be talking about it at an experiential level, not a blanket, group-think level.

An example of what we should be talking about is the Florida Board of Education’s metrics for reading at grade-level and breaking it down by race expectations, with Asians expected to excel and Blacks not to. That’s just so freaking wrong I’m shocked they publicized it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 22, 2015 5:24 pm

    I’m moved to build a couple more bridges.
    * The civil rights movement was heroic and what the freedom riders went through was horrific. Nothing I’ve said is meant to belittle that. People who fought against that, who are still alive and unrepentant should be ashamed.

    * The broken culture SOME ascribe to still is a direct result of the hopelessness good people suffered and left-over bigotry.

    * Heroic people WON the civil rights movement. It IS time to live like it.

    * Not all, and really, not most, people use racism as an excuse to take responsibility for their own character.

    * Racism does, of course and sadly, still exist, but not in a pervasive manner… which matters not at all to those suffering from it.

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