There is one issue that, perhaps more than any other, has divided this country over the years. That issue is racism. A lot of evil things have been done in the name of race over the years, many of which are well documented. From the Civil Rights movement and racial ugliness in the 60’s that covered the airwaves and saw the emergence of great respected leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, to name a few; from the gruesome Rodney King beating in L.A. several years ago to the present-day presidential election, there seems to constantly be issues lingering that involve different races. While we’ve made some strides over the years, we still have quite a ways to go before racism is erased from our minds and vocabulary. But if we ever want to end racism, we need to begin by truly defining racism in all its elements and face it head-on.
To be honest, I have trouble with the whole racism issue sometimes. So, I need some help. When is racism really racism? When is racism not racism? Why does it seem to me that racism is one-way?
Whenever the discussion of racism comes up, it inevitably seems to me to be a one-way sort of street. “One-way racism” I’ll call it. That is, when one race does something towards another, it is seen as racist. When the tables are turned, a very similar incident is not viewed as racist and, to make matters worse, excuses as to why are given. The racism only goes one-way.
Sometimes, it’s easy and we readily admit racism. When Don Imus ranted against the Rutger’s basketball team, cries of racism went up everywhere. Who could argue? His comments were despicable. Frankly, in my opinion, more than mere racism was involved. Regardless, people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton agreed and made their demands. The nightly news and talk shows covered the event ad nauseum as the talking heads made their points over and over again. Imus was eventually fired.
I have to say, though, that I feel society is being a little disingenuous in its discussion of racism. Take for instance this year’s presidential election. If people stood up and said, “I’m voting for John McCain because he is white,” wouldn’t there be cries of racism? Wouldn’t there be outrage on CNN and other news channels about the short-sightedness of voting for someone based on skin color? Wouldn’t the talking heads have plenty to say and argue about, each opining in their own unabashed way? Yet, where is the debate about the many who privately and openly vow to vote for Obama or McCain merely based on color. Oh, I know, I’ve heard that people want change and I’ve heard all the rhetoric. But isn’t race a bigger part of it than people want to candidly admit?
Barack Obama, the supposed agent of change, doesn’t seem to help much. Rather, he seems to stoke the fires when he warns that his opponent is going to try to scare the public against voting for him because of his heritage. Oh, and did I say he’s black? He’s the only candidate I hear mentioning race.
The discussion can be taken further by discussing policies such as affirmative action, race-specific agendas and race-promotion where the event is limited to a single racial class. I admire people who have fought against the tide of racism to confront those who would subvert another based on an ethnic or racial difference. However, when those same individuals don’t confront the members of their own race that ply the same trade that they are arguing against, credibility is lost.
Let me color this in black and white, since that is often the clearest area of racism (black/white) and one of America’s biggest problems. Take Black History Month or Miss Black America. No one argues about those important events. But, for the sake of discussion, what would happen if there were a White History Month or a Miss White America? Would there be shouts of racism? I think there would be. There would probably be shouts of racism against the promoters of those events. Is that right? Is that racism? If one situation is racist, aren’t both racist?
Racism is very much alive in America. There are white Americans who are still violently racist towards black Americans and vice versa. There are Hispanics that are racist, Jews that are racist and on and on it goes.
Will racism ever end? Probably not. But if it ever is going to end, shouldn’t racism at every turn be called what it is? How can racism ever end if it’s not ever truly and honestly defined? The issue is paramount because when we view racism through only one set of lenses, we are blinded and our mind’s eye fails to see racism from other angles. The big danger, I think, is not realizing the racism that actually exists and clouds our world. For when we don’t know that racism exists, we are powerless to change the attitudes that cause it. And when we fail to change our attitudes, our society continues walking the same road in the dark of night.
Can’t we all just get along and eat two cookies and call me in the morning?