Prejudice & Racism – The Hate We Can’t Get Past
Something happened on Saturday this past weekend that troubled me and since I’m still thinking about it, I wanted to go ahead and share it with those who may stumble across my humble blog. I’d like to keep this forum light and breezy, but occasionally something will come up that I will feel is worthy of examination, so without further ado, here’s what happened and what I think.
I’m a middle aged white American female with a husband and two children. Said husband and I have decided to move away from traditional banking and join a credit union (which is a story for another time). Since we both work full time, Saturday morning was the best time to go and open some accounts. We arrived before the credit union opened, but were not the only early birds and we took our place behind the three people who had arrived before us. They were Americans as well, but of African descent rather than European.
They were talking casually with each other and since there wasn’t the ubiquitous TV with CNN or Judge Judy to keep us occupied outside the locked doors, we were their audience. The topic of traffic violations came up and the one woman recounted her story about driving into a speed trap and being clocked at 75 mph in a 40 mph zone. She knew that she was caught and would get a ticket and would go to court in order to fight it. According to her, all the whites in the courtroom were let off and all the blacks were found guilty and made to pay fines. She specifically mentioned a young white male who was let off for his speeding violation while she was given a large fine and five points for her infraction. Trust me, if young Skippy had been doing almost double the speed limit, he would have been punished accordingly.
It is very disappointing to me that we as a society have not moved past prejudice and racism. It’s impossible not to identify another person’s race when interacting with them, but why is it that we as human beings can’t move past the lingering stereotypes and decide to like or dislike people on an individual basis exclusive of their skin color??? Why is this kind of hate perpetuated? Rodney King summed it up when he said “Can’t we all just get along?”
Here are some points I’d like to make on this subject:
Prejudice is something which is taught. Many years ago I went shopping with family. I got bored and went outside the store to enjoy the mild day. Two black children had been left unattended in a car outside the store next door. The variety of racial insults which were flung at me out of their innocent mouths was astounding. I’d never heard such ugliness before and certainly not from pre-schoolers. When the adults came out from their business next door, I stayed silent. There was really no point in confronting them about their children’s name-calling – their parents taught it to them and quite comprehensively. I was saddened that anyone would spend that much time teaching their children to hate.
Hate does not need to be paid forward. I have for most of my life worked with a variety of different kinds of people. I find it refreshing – there is always interesting wisdom that comes out of conversations with people different from oneself. The mid-Atlantic region seems to draw people from both the north and south and I met many people from out of state as I worked my way through school and on into my “real” career. I heard some pretty awful stories from some of my black coworkers about their travels through the south, including being turned away from restaurants and rude comments made to them when they stopped for gas. I was shocked that things like that still happened. They did not hold their bad experiences against me simply because I happened to be white.
One can walk away from a negative experience as a more understanding person. Bussing came to the schools in my county in the winter of 1974. I remember distinctly going to school on February 14th with Valentines for my classmates, half of whom were no longer there and strangers were occupying their desks. No one had discussed this with us. There was no assembly or even anything on the morning announcements to prepare us for this significant change in our school. We were children and of no importance in the decisions of board of education beyond statistics and county standards. The NAACP had sued the county for integration of schools, the judges ruled on how the distribution was to be carried out and we went where we were bussed.
The remainder of my elementary years and junior high were difficult and there was a lot of tension between the white and black students. There were days when I let it get to me and I felt deep resentment towards the black kids who would regularly yell “Hey whitey! Why don’t you go back to your own school?” or rant “Your ancestors made my ancestors slaves so you owe me a living!” I always came back to the realization that I had good friends who were black as well as white in both schools. It took a while for me to let go of the hate and realize that I needed to take people on a case by case basis and leave racial preconceptions out of the equation.
Where I’m going with all of this (and I realize I have been terribly long winded about it) is that people choose to hate and racism is an old idea that for whatever reason, some people won’t give up.
Actually, I have a few theories on why the race issue won’t die:
– Blaming others is easier than taking responsibility for one’s own shortcomings. It is a remarkably easy argument to say that other people are holding you back and that your unique wonderfulness is not being properly recognized or compensated (I’ve felt this way a time or two myself). When you looks more closely at the situation, an honest assessment reveals – “Maybe I’m not all that.” “Perhaps I could apply myself more fully.” “The person who got the promotion I wanted worked twice as hard as I did to earn it.” Next time you think about blaming a group of people because your life isn’t all you expected it to be, remember that was Hitler’s argument regarding the dismal German economy.
– Playing that race card when arguing about an emotionally charged issue is a sure way to derail your opponent. It is almost impossible to defend one’s self from this accusation and when I’ve seen it used, it was completely unjustified. If you are losing an argument, for goodness sake, take the high road and don’t use this ploy to win. Agree to disagree or wait until round two (when you will be much more prepared to support your case) to re-engage your opponent. Because someone does not agree with you does not mean they are a racist, simply a person with a different philosophy or viewpoint (which may be culturally based, but not antagonistically aimed against you.)
– Hate is counterproductive to evolving into a better person. Hate is bad for your health, bad for your spirit and it holds you back from reaching your full potential – think about it, if you spend your energy hating other people, you are not using that energy to better yourself. If, on the other hand you take that energy and use it positively it not only benefits you, but it touches the lives of those around you. Here are some examples of what you can do:
Take a class or get your degree in order to further your career.
Work with a diverse group of people at work to solve a problem or save the company money.
Volunteer in your community and meet some of your neighbors you don’t know and perhaps make a good friend.
Thanks for tuning in to today’s installment and for considering what I’ve said. Hopefully we can work together to make a better world for each other and for the next generations who follow behind us. The least we can do is set a good example.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…