Racism Today: A “White Boy’s” Perspective
June/6/2011 I had to add a video to the end of this hub (Morgan Freeman on Racism and Black History Month). Be sure to check it out.
December/29/2017 Due to some formatting changes by the website, I have to make some minor adjustments, which helped me find some mistakes and things to clarify. I'm also adding an update at the end. Yay for segregation!
About the Author
I am white, pale in fact. I get flack from time to time for being a white boy. Ever been called a vampire for being so fair skinned?
Ironically, I have a grand mother who is black and I am a full quarter Native American. I grew up with strong Native American influence in mostly white communities. Family and genealogy were hot topics at home. My family considers our origin and history important. It helps us know where we are from and who we have become.
Naturally I am in a position to see things from multiple angles.
What Does “Racism” Mean?
The dictionary describes racism as;
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
(found on dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism)
Let Us Explore This Shall We
Over the many generations our country has been around, there have been countless instances of racism. The nation was founded by invaders looking for their own piece of land to call home and stealing it from others. This was followed by the new owners of said land bringing in slaves and forcing people to do their bidding on stolen land.
The people who had their homes taken and who were taken from their homes were horribly mistreated. They were considered the inferior race because their military might was not as powerful and they were unable to defend themselves against the more powerful attacking army.
These days there are many people who seem to think the days of racism are long past. Since the days of Martin Luther King Jr (I love wikipedia, great resource. Make sure you check the sources though.)
Some people believe such strides were made to break down the barriers of race that there is no more problem. Contrariwise, there are many people who are of the opinion that things are as bad as ever if not worse. They say that race affects everything from job availability, to basic courtesy, to police mistreatment.
My Experience With Racism
I have always lived in communities that are mostly dominated by white people. In the small county I grew up in, there were Native American reservations spread out between towns. It seemed everywhere outside city limits was off limits to white people.
I mentioned before that it seemed everywhere out of city limits was off limits to white people. The irony to this is that you could often hear local tribes complaining that they had no good land to work with because the white people took it all and would not give it back. I also heard the same tribesmen talking, outside the presence of the "oppressive whites," about how the white men only think they have the good land.
While some of the Native Americans I know are some of the most peaceful, successful and spiritual people I know, many of them squander what is referred to as “18 money” (because they get afforded this money from the government as penance for white people taking their land). It's spent on things they do not need, that they then do not take care of. When the frivolous purchase is destroyed they go back to working minimum wage jobs and never head toward ambition. The same people blame the white people in the area for everything that goes wrong and for the poor shape of their belongings.
I consider this form of racism the worst. People let their animosity for others, fueled by race, be their excuse for their own problems.
The Most Dramatic Experience I've Had
The one that was most dramatic was a black woman who was trying to get food stamps (I was there for the same reason.) The attendant at the counter gave her the paperwork and asked her to “please fill these out and bring them to me when you are done.” Just as she had said to me moments before; the woman was behind me in line.
The new applicant turned red in the face and said “You can’t treat me like this!” Without waiting for a response, she continued, “It’s because I’m black!” She pressed on forcefully, “You’re just trying to get rid of me. You don’t want me to get what I need because I’m black!” Again she did not wait for a response, “You b****! I want to talk to a manager! Get me a manager!” This same protest continued when the manager arrived (he was on his way already because of the commotion). He introduced himself as a manager and she did not break stride on the yelling.
After several minutes of the manager saying things like “Everyone needs to fill out these forms” and “no we are not trying to keep you from meeting your needs” while the angry woman continued her tirade, she finally yelled “Damn white people! A**h*****!” and stormed out.
Granted, for me this was not a dangerous situation. But when it happened I realized for the first time how people let their beliefs about race get in their own way.
I have seen countless examples of the same kind of scenario. Most often there has been no reason I have seen for the "discriminated" to feel like they were treated differently in any way. This DOES NOT, mean discrimination doesn't happen. It's all too real. I repeat, these cases in which the person only perceived racism DO NOT mean there is no real discrimination.
If You Think Racism is Dead;
take a closer look at things around you. Look at it a little differently.
It's not just about anger and abuse. It's about how we make it harder to get along based on things like skin color, hair color, cultural differences, and other misconceptions. Racism takes many forms and being aware of how we're treating each other based on such things helps us better understand ourselves.
If you see someone else and start passing judgement based on racial features, that's a measure of racism. Does that make you a horrible person? No. It may be an aspect of your personality worth changing though.
Programs to Stop Racism
These days, we have a number of legal obligations in place such as "Equal Opportunity Employment" that have a noble intent. I think they fall short. In this particular legal precedent for example, do you know what it means to have said status? Simply put; the company promises to match the local demographic. If they do not have an equivalent percentage of all races, ages, and genders working for them as the local population, they are penalized. Naturally this leads to hiring people who are of the appropriate race, age and gender to keep them in these stats. I worked for an Equal Opportunity Employer unloading trucks and distributing the product across the store. We were short staffed and they finally got a person to replace the last employee who left. The person they hired was a small young Latino woman, a new mother, who wanted to work in the clothing department. She could not lift much weight, she could not move fast and she did not have the drive to push herself as we all had to do every day. Now, she would have been fantastic in the clothing department, in fact, after she was transferred to clothing she did great. But she was a terrible fit for the unloading crew. But she fit that missing demographic.
I recently learned this kind of action is a misinterpretation of the law. The actions of the company hiring someone because they fit the demographic is specifically prohibited by the law. In this case, whether it was out of ignorance, or a desire to avoid litigation, I couldn't tell you.
My point here is this
People are racist and stupid and selfish. People are also kind, loving and brilliant. No matter what the color of their skin, or what they eat, or how they dress, what really separates us is how we treat other people. Not how they treat us. If we want to stop racism, we need to treat other people with respect and hope they are doing their best, whether or not we think they are. That dignity and respect is what wins hearts. Empathy is what dissolves issues like racism. Not intolerance.
Thanks for reading and I hope to read your comments below.
In the Words of Morgan Freeman
Update December 2017 (Segregation in Colleges)
There have been a number of stories circulating about segregation at colleges. I've found a couple of sources for this information.
1. Harvard had a separate graduation for the Black class members of 2017.
I'd caution anyone taking part in such an event, because it can easily look from the outside like segregation. However, it looks more like the Black students understood what a big deal their accomplishments are. They also recognized that it wasn't long ago, Blacks weren't given the same chance they were. They just wanted to have a ceremony for themselves as a community. A way to show each other they are not alone and they are strong. Essentially, it could have been done as a big party to celebrate, but they wanted the formality. Together they personally funded the event, and were able to celebrate formally with friends and family.
If feels to me more like they deserve kudos for a great idea.
(Side note: I've just realized I'm in the habit of saying "African American," but reading that article on BET had me typing "Black" instead. Since they only said "Black." For some reason that seems a little ironic.)
2. I've heard a bunch of reports about segregation on college campuses. I saw a few articles on right-wing media outlets saying Black students are demanding "Black Only" spaces. I'm choosing not to trust those though. I just haven't been able to verify them with anyone I was sure didn't have an agenda to push.
What I can substantiate is that there are a lot of people self-segregating. In doing so, they lose their sense of community and ability to tolerate differences. There's a pretty good article on it at the Huffington Post.
Whatever the case, it seems to me creating a segregated community, or a separate graduation is a bad idea. That's why Martin Luther King Jr fought against segregation in the first place. Working together and letting go of biases and fear is the only way to peacefully coexist. Nelson Mandela said much the same.
A celebration for a single group, seems shaky ground. But celebrating who you are and where you come from is always a good idea. Hopefully we can come to a better understanding and start valuing ourselves and each other.
© 2011 kwade tweeling