Think about it. Not a day goes by when average Americans deal with the real face of modern racism. Many like to claim, "I have friends that are black (or African-American, you fill in the PC word of the day)." Like having a few Black friends means you would never harbor a racist thought? Nonsense! Just the other day, a Tea Party acquaintance of mine gleefully told me that he was returning to school to obtain a Masters Degree in English Literature. I told him that was fantastic. His response? "Yea, its great but I am required to read Black literature like "Black Like Me" and boy, why bother?" Really, I kid you not. Instead of opening his mind and allowing cultural differences to enter his thoughts, he dismisses the assignments as a "Waste of time."
What did he expect if he was studying English literature, that the writings would be solely by White authors? Last I checked, there are a number of outstanding Black authors that have contributed greatly to American literature over the centuries (see Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin just to name a few).
Which gets into the "boogie man" narratives created by those using fear to incite emotions that crime seems to be attributable to non-whites. Ask any black man, woman or child if they have ever been followed in a store under the immediate suspicious eye of security. Ask how many Blacks have been stopped by police, simply for "Driving while being black?" What's worse, is the knee-jerk response from many Whites that "If Blacks can use the 'N' word, why can't "I?" Now I would never endorse anyone (White, Black, Yellow, Red or any combination thereof),using the derogatory term "nigger." Yet I don't particularly see how limiting it's public use is something that offends Whites. And the modern comparison of obscenity between the terms "Nigger" and "Cracker" make it even more dumbfounding. Even spelling out the "N" word offends the overtly politically correct sort in today's overly-sensitive society. But its not the word itself that makes it unacceptable, its what it conveys by its use that does!
Years ago I had a best-selling travel author as a client. When I worked with him to improve his publishing agreement with his publisher, he complained how "niggardly" his publisher was treating him. Initially, I was taken-aback by his choice of words, except the definition of "niggardly" just happens to be "cheap, chintzy, close, closefisted, mean, niggard, parsimonious, penny-pinching, spare, sparing, tightfisted, uncharitable... okay, I think you get my point (source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary). So what group of society today would earn the title of being "niggardly?" Look Left, then look Center, and ooh, look RIGHT! You see, the word has nothing to do with being Black, but everything to do with being "uncharitable" and "Cheap." Sounds a lot like the self-serving misguided Tea Party members to me! Any guess who they envision when promoting the notion that there are "moochers" and "takers" in our society?
Just in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a letter to the editor from an 85 year old Marine veteran stated Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law must not be touched by any reform because; "We need all the help we can get to fend off home invasions, rapes, etc., against the elderly. Older women are especially vulnerable, and more of them should get trained and put guns in their handbags." Little old ladies need to fend off rapes? Really? Home invasions are a serious threat here in Florida? How many 85 year old folks in Florida actually live in fear of home invasions? Who exactly do these people fear? You can bet some form of this straw man is a person "of color!" (Now is it racist to point this out?).
Which gets to the Right's loud and proud defense of New York's "Stop and Frisk" policies that were recently struck down as Unconstitutional by the Courts. According to Conservatives, the "Stop and Frisk" is not really about racial profiling, but about identifying potential perpetrators of crime. They claim without this procedure, crime in poor urban areas will skyrocket. That may be a point for argument, but claiming it is not guided by racial profiling and is equally applied to all Americans, is well, simply laughable (see real motivations behind Voter ID initiatives).
Some time in the last year, it was related to me from a reliable source that a Bronx high school allowed a class of students to visit an art museum in Manhattan. As they waited on the platform for the subway, two unidentified men began hassling some of the Black male students, demanding to see ID. When the students (understandably) questioned why they were being hassled, the two men proceeded to throw the boys to the ground and handcuff them. When their teacher began dialing 911 to call for the police, one of the "assailants" threatened her with arrest and only then identified themselves as undercover police. Only after she explained to them the boys were part of her high school class on a school-sponsored field trip did they allow the boys to rise to their feet and then removed the cuffs. Although I do not live in NYC, I do travel there often and thoroughly enjoy riding the subway. Yet, if I was a young black man, would I feel as comfortable? Anyone, Conservative, Moderate or Liberal really would have to seriously think about the negative impact created by an established system of repeated "stop and frisk" based upon racial profiling. Isn't it part of the human condition? If we are mistreated by anyone, we are more likely to avoid them. Scientific studies have proven that self-esteem is impacted by the way we treat each other. If you repeatedly tell a student they are not capable, they will never try to improve. If you tell them they are worthless, they will begin to actually believe they have no value. What message has society sent to young folks of color with such intrusive and damaging "Stop and Frisk" policies?
We all have a streak of racism and we need to face up to it. We all share our own life experiences that shape our beliefs and attitudes. When some people go out of their way to deny they have racist attitudes it seems they in effect, are simply reinforcing its real existence. Racism is a tricky issue, but it is one that we can and must address and try to minimize. As soon as society begins to adjust and accept the existence of racism, or blind hatred of another for that matter, the sooner we will heal our divided Republic. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Words from the 18th Century. Isn't it time we recognize and accept them in the 21st? “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them” ― Elie Wiesel. Have a great week!