One of the ugly truths about President Obama’s presidency and the current election year is the role of race and racism today. Throughout his presidency Obama has been questioned and attacked for things beyond his presidential actions – his place of birth, the fact that he might belong to other hated groups, etc. Donald Trump, who opened his run for presidency by announcing that he’d build a wall to keep out the illegal immigrants, has violence going on at his rallies against people who don’t support the views he’s spouted. The recent in Belgium had him and Ted Cruz, another Republican, calling out Muslims in general – with Cruz going so far as to call for patrols against them.
It’s become quite clear, when people are called racist and bigoted for voicing and supporting these sort of views, however, that people no longer understand what racism is. They think that, because they have friends of other ethnicities and color that they’re okay, that because they can accept a person’s skin color that they don’t hate people or have a problem. Some think, because they’re not white, they can’t possibly be racist.
How far we’ve fallen in the last couple of decades – from the growing acceptance of everyone’s differences to full-blown riots and violence because of many years of silent ignorance. It’s time for a little clarity and an update to the issue.
Racism doesn’t end between black and white – there is a full color spectrum of people and cultures out there. Blaming an entire race for the fallacies of a few nutjobs is the kind of racism Hitler incited and became chancellor after his party’s win in Germany in 1933. (History, need I remind you, was not kind to the Jewish people, nor was it kind to those who scoffed and laughed at the idea of his leadership.) Racism isn’t exclusive to coming from white people, either – if you hate or blame any race, that’s racism.
The biggest problem we have with this isn’t direct racism anymore, however – it’s the ability to be honest with ourselves and each other on this and other issues. We can’t admit to ourselves that our hatred, dislike or discomfort in any group of people’s weird oddities and stereotypes – why we might be uncomfortable with a black kid dressed in thug clothes who might be on the bus on his way to class, or a white person in a wife beater on and a pickup truck with beer just relaxing. How do you know the person wearing a hijab mere feet away from you now isn’t going to be your doctor, pharmacist or technician later? Or that the Asian person across the street isn’t someone working a high-profile job?
Some people need to understand that calling people out to do the right thing and follow the rules isn’t racist – it’s an act of asking for common respect. Some people need to understand that discomfort IS okay AS LONG AS we’re honest about said discomfort and look to make ourselves more comfortable with it. Other people need to understand that calling out an entire race for the actions of a few IS racist and needs to end. Calling people out on it isn’t wrong, either – EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect.
This doesn’t with race, either – we have problems with a person’s gender, a person’s religious beliefs, a person’s age, a person’s disabilities, even their body types. How many of you criticize someone who looks completely normal exiting a vehicle that has a handicap license plate or sticker on it? How many of you haven’t thought of telling the fat person to put down the pizza and get on the stair master, or to get out of a bikini because it exposes their jiggly parts? We tell ourselves to “grow a thick skin,” when in reality the ones with the problems are the ones acting like primates.
Not understanding or being uncomfortable with someone or something is okay – I can fully admit to not understanding some cultures or some of the gender roles, mostly due to how exposed I am to them. For example, as much as I support the transgender community and have a couple of friends who came out within the last few years, the frequency I see or interact with them somewhat limits my understanding of them beyond how I’ve known them in the past or beyond the science of people as I was last taught. I also live in a dorm that consists of a lot more, and a lot younger, black people than I’ve been around in a given period – many of whom come from various parts of Chicago, Rockford, and other communities. Hence, there is a “culture shock” of getting used to kids blasting their cell phones to what they call “music” and how they interact.
My lack of understanding these people, however, doesn’t make me want to build walls or blame an entire race for the few loud ones – nor does seeing anyone of middle-eastern “appearance” at school cause me to wonder which quick-mart they’ll be opening. While I may want silence when I’m on the toilet, it has nothing to do with your music – I’d call out the behavior, even if it was Metallica or Queen, two bands whose music could easily be considered my favorite.
We need to be honest with ourselves, with our problems with each other, and how much the things we can’t admit to DO play a role in our world views – and we need to learn to accept them, regardless or who or why it’s called out. We need to stop denying these problems, and we need to stop the people who are fanning those flames. A few years back I wouldn’t have a problem calling Trump president – he’s a solid business leader who, in spite of four bankruptcies, has managed to stay successful, something we’ll need as America continues to rebuild. I can’t support a person, however, whose views of Muslims and immigrants include violence and deportation – nor can I back others who support it. Hatred and racism is a disease: left unchecked, it grows into fighting, bloodshed and death.
How do we stop this? We start with that honesty: We start by admitting these faults exist, and that we may do them. We continue by challenging these faults, by meeting people outside of our comfort zone, by talking to and understanding them – like some of us used to do. We challenge others to do so, understanding that they may not be ready – but to be ready for them when they are. We learn to judge and respect others by actions, not appearance, to offer assistance when asked, and not to push where uninvited. We learn to respect each other again.
And when we’re called out, we pay attention – we learn to understand what is really said.
We can beat Racism – but we really need to understand what that is again.