Regarding Being Racist

Regarding Being Racist

A Chapter by Paul
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thoughts on judging and labeling individuals

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Regarding Being Racist

 

I avoid talking about race. I fear being shut down before I can make a reasoned point. I am a white man. To many this means that I cannot imagine what it is like to be part of a minority. I have written elsewhere why I feel this is a dysfunctional attitude (The Me Primer). Here I will just reiterate that, by imagining ourselves in someone else’s place, humans can empathize with any situation. To deny this is to deny that we can make progress on any issues that involve differences of any kind. But, with the idea that I do not know firsthand what it is like to be part of a minority race, I will instead focus on what I do know, being part of the majority race.  This would be the race that has the largest number of racists. I am in a position that those from a minority race cannot be. I can observe racism behind closed doors. In the whites only section.

I am not sure who gets to have the final say on the exact definition of a racist. As a white man in his fifties, I am in a good position to give some insight. I would venture to say that I would not look out of place wearing a t-shirt with a swastika on it. I do not own such a t-shirt. I have been told that I can be insensitive. Hopefully, most people will be able to see the degree difference in admitting that I can be insensitive and being a nazi. I judge people regularly on their appearance. My rational mind knows that this judgement can be wrong and that only content can tell you about an individual. I have used racial slurs in jokes and in anger. I sometimes insist that certain stereo types have a grain of truth to them. This amuses me despite the best efforts of young people around me. Yet I am positive that I am not a racist. I do not think that my definition of a racist is at odds with most academic definitions. I can make personal statements to refute any accusation of being a racist: I believe that no one race is better than another race; I believe in the most up to date scientific theories that we are all descended from homo sapiens from the continent of Africa; I believe that it should be illegal to racially discriminate when it comes to employment or services to the general public; I believe that there is nothing scientifically or morally wrong with inter-racial couples and their offspring.

When I have used racial slurs in the past, it was not because I felt that an entire race was beneath me. It was because I was angry at a particular person.  When someone cuts me off while driving, I often identify their gender and race, as well as their license plate, and think sexist, racist and state hating things. I do not really believe that people from Pennsylvania and Maryland, or people of Asian descent, or women, are all bad drivers. I just want to think, and occasionally blurt out, some horrible and angry thing because…I am angry. To my mind this is more an issue with anger management than racism. As regards humor and stereotypes, I am amused by generalizations about groups of people. I do not feel I am alone in this. This can come from comedians talking about their own race but not always. Often there is an element of knowing ludicrousness in this. Like stating that all Irish Americans are drunks, or all African Americans call out in movie theaters, or all Italian Americans are connected to the mob. I know these are gross generalizations. Having said that, if I had to bet money on who in the movie theater will: have whiskey/beer breath, yell at the screen, or think they know someone who knows someone who can get things done, I would probably go with the odds. It is my belief that I can partake in conversations like this because I can prove my commitment to racial equality with my reasoned discourse. Pointing out that every generalization or insensitive remark denotes racism is as divisive as actual racist comments. It immediately puts someone in a “camp”. If you ask someone who you hear being racially insensitive, “do you believe that you are better than other people by virtue of your race”? You should get your answer as to who is racist and who has been insensitive.

As a white person I know when I am in the wrong crowd talking about race. People who believe that the white race is superior, and that there should be a separation of races, will discuss this with other white people. This is an advantage I have over minorities and younger, white people. Actual racists judge me by my skin color and age and assume they can speak freely to me. Having this advantage, I can say that it is rare to come across anyone, born after 1950, who believes one race is superior to another.  Only hard-core racists, who were probably brain washed as children, still think such things. This is fantastic progress. And I believe it is as good as we can expect. If you believe that we can ever erase bias in individual thought patterns or ethno-centrism in cultures, I think you are going to be regularly disappointed. Human beings have come admirably far with our ability to categorize people and things quickly. It is an important asset and should not be disparaged. The real test is what a person does once they have made their initial assessment. Reasoned investigation, that goes beyond superficial assessments, is the test. Even having said this, I am not sure I have ever spoken with anyone, at length, who did not feel that their cultural upbringing had given them certain advantages. Even people who admit that they come from troubled families and high crime areas are likely to talk about how this has made them stronger as a person. This is what humans do to boost themselves. Confidence in one’s clan is a mainstay of human development. Only reasoned investigation can help to balance this necessary confidence with what may be a needed change in thinking.

We should be striving for everyone in our society feeling as comfortable discussing race as a group of Americans of European descent do. There is rarely any malice when insensitive remarks are thrown around such groups. Polish, Irish, and Italian Americans do this regularly. I understand that people of African, mid-eastern, Mexican, and Jewish descent are rarely going to be as comfortable in these situations. They have more intense and long-standing histories of discrimination. I recognize this but here is my sincere belief. I think it is a more plausible goal to strive for every American feeling comfortable talking and joking about race in public, than to try and expunge all stereotypes and ethno-centrism from daily life. There is always going to be insensitivity. An apology should be sufficient.

I am in the company of white people all day, every day. I can assure all minorities that what I mostly see is not racism but ethno-centrism. When I am speaking of ethno-centrism, I will take it a step further than the dictionary definition (using one’s own cultural standards to judge people of other cultures) and say that people are most comfortable with people from their own culture. This does not only apply to cultures of race but neighborhood cultures and religious cultures. I see people being most comfortable around their own tribe. Not out of malice but out of the simple concept of comfort level. When it comes to people of different races falling in love, I believe there is more selfishness in their family’s initial reactions than actual racism. Grandparents want to see grandchildren who look like their family. Who have the same hair and facial features as the people they grew up loving. This is not necessarily because of any malice toward other races. This can be a simple, selfish conceit. They want to comb or braid their grandchildren’s hair the same way that their grandmother’s combed and braided hair. Most people will get over this eventually.

I like to think that if you put an Irish American and an African American in the same room with 20 people from France, that eventually the two Americans would gravitate toward each other. Besides the language barrier I think people try to find comfort levels where-ever they are. “Tribe” or “clan” for me is a catch all. Your tribe can take many forms depending on your situation. When there is only one other American in the room, that person is part of your tribe. And it is important to point out how difficult the first sentence of this paragraph was to formulate. Irish American and African American can tell you too much and not enough. American is sufficient for most discussions. If you are looking for more info, you cannot explain this melting pot we call home with two words. Is the person Scots Irish, Catholic or Protestant, West Indie, Latino? And, as stated before, aren’t we all from Africa originally?

Categorizing people and things is important to humans and always has been. Sometimes in doing so we can find humor at a groups expense, and/or make unfair comparisons, but we do not have to let this linger past the categorizing stage. We are beings who can reason. We can look past our initial reactions and make learned decisions based on extended knowledge of individuals. Let’s spend more time doing this and less time accusing each other of hating. It is of the utmost importance to find out who the real haters are, the racists who want to keep us all believing that we cannot be reconciled.

 



© 2021 Paul


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Added on March 19, 2021
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Paul
Paul

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I am writing in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States, mostly non-fiction at this time. I am a song writer as well. http://songsongsongs.com Also of interest could be- http://bookstore.trafford... more..

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Regarding Truth Regarding Truth

A Chapter by Paul