Politics. Could we stop talking about Racism? Not yet. 4-10-16

We may be at the beginning of finally having that conversation about Race which some of us have been waiting to happen for quite some time. Its in the news every day. Social media is full of incidents. Daily, we have encounters which leave us questioning ourselves and others as to whether or not that was “Racist.”

Racism is not a problem specific to the United States – Racism and ethnic biases exist pretty much in any place where there are more than 2 human beings within view of each other. That said, there are few countries in which Racism and its effects are more plainly seen on a daily basis, and often used by one group to benefit another than here in the United States.

It does seem, however, that we are hearing a lot more about Race via the News and Social Media. Stories errupt every day about the stance of particular Presidential candidates, the shooting of unarmed minorities, and other racially charged incidents in which people clash, facts are brought forward and opinions expressed.

In my view, I would attribute the increase in Racial tension in the United States to 4 things:

First: There is a visible target to hate and also to use as an excuse – once we elected a Black President, he provided a target for all of those who had even trace negative Racist all the way out to full-on Bigots to focus their hate on, while at the same time gave the so called “positive” racists this, “see, Racism is over in the United States. We elected a Black President. See? Move on.” When I say “positive Racists,” they are also known as the Racially Blind (I can’t see Race. I wish everyone would get along – while the same people are often guilty of the same micro and macro aggressions as the “negative Racists”)
Second: This country has a history of Racism that has never been resolved because one side of the equation has benefitted significantly from institutionalized Racism (less Police scrutiny, lesser penalties, less scrutiny with lower expectations in the workplace, higher pay, and more of a likelihood of promotion in education and in the workplace, and overall less overt and covert hostility focused upon them, etc) but refuses to acknowledge the bias, the benefits, and the negative impact on the other parties.
Third: Poverty and the wage gap – overt demonstrations of Racism tend to increase in this country as the gap between wealth and poverty widens and the ability to elevate oneself from poverty becomes more difficult. The wealthy tend to exploit this gap by misdirecting any attention upon the accumulation of wealth by highlighting racial factions and inciting jealously, often with the tools of institutionalized Racism (focused policing and the resulting police brutality, excessive sentencing laws, finding ways to tax the poor via increased sales taxes, tickets, fees and fines).
Fourth: Pedestal Racism: Certain minorities are provides with a slightly less oppressed path, and then held up as examples to the rest of the oppressed minority. Occasionally its via a series of random lotteries (sports, stardom, the actual lottery). Other times, its through providing a slightly less oppressive path for educated/hard working immigrants to attain success. So this then can be said: “See the (insert elevated racial group here) people, they are so industrious and hard working. They own their own stores, cars, and houses. Their kids always get top marks. Why can’t you be like them?”

What can we do about this?

Well, first we can all try harder to understand each other just a bit. Sometimes something perceived as a micro-aggression, like not saying “hello” to a person inside your personal space while getting your coffee, is not an act of Racism. Some people are quiet in the morning before caffeination. That said, if you are inside another person’s personal space, make a point to acknowledge a fellow human being. Smile. Say “hello.” At least say “pardon” or “excuse me.”

If you are a Police Officer, remember some of your training where you were trained on how to de-escalate a situation?  Make sure you use that training whether its an upset elderly woman who’s screaming at her husband, or an upset Black man who might be yelling at his friend. We’re all human beings. Shooting first and claiming you were in danger isn’t going to help you or anyone else in a world full of witnesses and cell phone cameras. If you can’t de-escalate the situation and your feelings keep getting in the way, consider another line of work.

If are having an encounter with a Police officer, remain calm, move slowly, remember to be polite and speak in your inside voice. You shouldn’t have to act a particular way. That said, both the Police officer and the encountered person would like to survive the day and be able to go home. Let’s work together to make sure that happens.

In the workplace, before you berate that employee for being late, EVERYONE is late. Some people a lot less frequently than others, but everyone is late.  Its not intentional. People are not doing it on purpose to disrespect you (most of the time). If you find that someone is often late, before yelling at the late person, maybe you should check the schedules of the other people who work for you, and see how many of them actually make it early or on time. You might find once you widen that focus a bit that the person you are focusing on may not be as late as the people you aren’t really watching.

In class, if you are a teacher, check your tone. Why?  There’s a bunch of studies out there that indicate that you are likely yelling at the minorities in your class, or subjecting them to a higher level of scrutiny than the rest of the kids. You might consider recording your teaching over a period of a week or two and checking yourself to see if you are treating some kids differently than others. Entertain the idea that maybe its not because one kid is a jerk or has a bad attitude about school and that maybe you had an idea about “the way that kid is” before he or she ever opened their mouths.

Oh, and one more thing – Black folks in the US can’t be Racists. We are and have quite often exhibited Bigoted behavior or displayed a racial bias. That said, since Black folks do not own the power structure, nor do we have the benefit of being able to use that structure to take your job, your life, or your wealth, we do not have the tools necessary to be Racists.

That would be why when a White Person says, “That’s Racist” you get the look from us that can generously be translated to mean , “Oh damn, it’s my turn to be THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE BLACK PEOPLES and explain this shit… again.”

This conversation has been roughly 400 years in the making. Its not likely to be over anytime soon. 40 years ago, Martin Luther King tried to start the conversation, along with JFK, his brother, Malcolm X and a few others, and they all got shot.

Apparently we weren’t ready to start that conversation then.

Maybe we are now?

About gojohnego

Avid foodie and kitchen tinkerer, artist, news junky and political wonk, musician, blogger, naturist, dog-daddy, and owner of a kinky play-space. ...and did I mention I'm single ;)
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