That's Racist....Or Is It?
Race relations in America are, if nothing else, unique. It has been a long road to equality, and there is still a ways to go. Different cultures and ethnicities have been thrown together, and the results are still pending. I’m not sure how the experiment will turn out, but if nothing else it is a fascinating study.
Today, most of us want to get along. We respect those different than us, and would like nothing more to live in a peaceful harmony with one another. We would like to see our kids grow up with others regardless of their race, gender, or sexuality. That is the ideal, at least for me.
The story of America is a mixed bag, between her glorious and troubled past. Founded by brilliant men, some of whom wrote things such as All men are created equal but owned other men.
Thomas Jefferson knew slavery was evil and inhumane yet vital to sustain the plantations that had come to rely on its free labor. There is nothing more destructive or evil than enslaving any group of people. He also knew it needed to end, yet it would be many years after his death.
To think that only fifty or sixty years ago we had separate water fountains, stores, schools, and movie theatres is strange, for someone like myself who grew up with kids of all races and backgrounds it is unimaginable.
I would like to think that we've made great strides in race relations. Yet, as far as we've come, it seems now we are no longer willing to debate what is or is not racist. We have become hypersensitive to anything even remotely pertaining to race.
Racism- a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
Today, few people use the word racism in the correct context; it’s tossed around without the slightest thought. The danger with declaring any and everything racist is that it strips the word of its meaning. I don’t even flinch when someone on the news or a tv show calls someone else racist. It’s just what people say today.
“Oh my gosh, you described him as a black guy, that’s soo racist!”
This is not to say that racism does not exist, unfortunately we all know better. For instance, I think we can safely say that by definition Hitler was a racist. Many extreme groups today are full of racist. They actually believe that one race is inherently superior to other races. But to declare everyone who says things that we disagree with a racist is a bit absurd. Many politicians like to throw this around, and it’s dangerous.
Stereotype - to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.
People are stereotyped all of the time, and to be honest, sometimes it’s funny. I’m a white guy, therefore I can’t dance, have no rhythm, can’t jump, and I walk funny. As someone who grew up playing basketball, a sport mainly played by--gasp-- black guys, I’ve heard them all, and guess what? I laughed. Comedians do this all of the time and few people take issue with it.
But many stereotypes can be hurtful. Many Muslims were unfairly stereotyped after 9/11, leading to a backlash of hate and ignorance that can still be found today.
I can differentiate between these harmless stereotype and hurtful stereotypes. When a black guy that I work with says to me, you know I’m not going swimming, right? Should I scowl at him and then give him a lecture on racial stereotypes so that he knows that I’m not a card carrying racist?
Race relations are fascinating here because as far as we've come, we still cannot seem to overcome it completely. Do we assimilate, do we celebrate our diversity? Or do we just fight about it constantly?
Bigot -a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
There are tons of bigots out there. Ignorant people who will never like or understand anything or anyone who is different from them. These people will never change, their beliefs are passed down from generation to generation and it’s quite sad that they are so closed minded.
We come across bigots all of the time, hurling their insults and ignorance, and teaching it to others. There are bigots of all races, and no one benefits from its consequences.
Prejudice - preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
We are all guilty of this one. I will confess one of my prejudices. I think that all Philadelphia Eagles fans are morons. Do I have factual evidence to back this up? No, but I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. People have preconceived judgments everyday. Blonds can’t drive, bankers are greedy, athletes are dumb, and so on. Many people have prejudices about race, only most won’t admit them.
These are just a few of my thoughts on this difficult and controversial subject. I believe we always have racial issues here; we are too diverse not to. I think the most important thing is talking about it. Honest, open conversation from all sides. Understanding one another is key. If we can get along, then hopefully our kids can do the same.