Racism in Me

I almost didn’t write this. Honestly, I didn’t think I had the right to.

For context, I’m a middle aged, middle class, white man. That demographic is heard a lot. My demographic says a lot. Just not always the right thing is being said.

Once again, we see the posts and the news of another unarmed black man killed by a white police officer. There is no justification for this man’s death, much less the way he died. Horrific is not a strong enough word. This is an atrocity.

What changed my mind about writing was a social media post from someone I value that said, “The outcry must come from more than just black folk…”

He is right.

Let me start where we all need to start: admitting there is a problem. There is. Before we point fingers, we need to look inward. I have. I am. 

I have prejudice. Few of us ever want to use the word racist to describe ourselves, yet we see racism every day. When I hear a person say they don’t “see color” I know they are lying and trying to mask the fear and prejudice that exists within them. I know this because I did this. 

The most awful thing about that statement is it dishonors the beauty of diversity of how we were created. This is true about any statement that tries to make everyone the exact same. We aren’t meant to look the same. We weren’t designed to think the same, or act the same, or be the same. Ignoring our differences is just a way of turning a blind eye to the tensions that difference creates. It denies that beauty of creation. It dishonors the uniqueness of the individual. It disrespects the Creator.

White people love to point out a friend of color as their proof they aren’t a racist. It proves nothing. It just means they have a friend; usually due to work or school. It is rarely due to seeking out a relationship with someone who is different than they are. The worst is when someone tries to finds a way to “slip” it in to a conversation to try to show that they are “woke” and inclusive. It’s the misguided idea that somehow knowing the name of someone of a different skin tone gives them the right to speak about things they don’t understand or, even worse, gives them a pass from responsibility to speak out against the injustice that is happening. This person very well still could, and probably does, look at others with darker skin than theirs and feel fear or bitterness or just simply makes stereotypical assumptions.

We can lament so many things and abdicate our responsibility all day long. We know it. We do it. We point to the media and say it’s their fault. We use broken arguments and broken logic to ease our seared consciences and set it aside so we don’t actually have to address the real problem. The problem within.

To the white people reading this: stop using someone you know of a different race to abdicate your responsibility to confront the ugliness of racism and prejudice in your own life.

To those who are people of color reading this: I am sorry for the times I have done that very thing. I apologize for my prejudice and racism and want to work to learn, grow, and to be and do better. I promise to listen more and talk less. I will strive to stand against injustice and do what I can to see true reconciliation take place.

To address the real problem requires us to confront the issues within; to challenge our ideals and beliefs; to admit that we are wrong and we need to change. That is uncomfortable. It is true, we love our comfort. We fight for it: too much.

It is time to show some courage. You cannot be comfortable and courageous at the same time.

I grew up racist. I used words and pronouns and stereotypes and jokes and held ideals that now offend me and are indefensible. What breaks my heart now, is I didn’t see it as racism then. I do now.

Here’s the thing about it, we can be racist and never act mean or aggressive or even have hate toward a person. Racism isn’t about another person. Racism is an ugly selfishness. It believes that somehow only people with a similar background and skin tone are worthy of your honor and respect without proof. Racism is closed mindedness informed by stereotypes and fear. Ultimately, that is what it really is: fear. Fear that different is bad. Fear that uniqueness is a threat. It’s fear of what you don’t understand

Whenever a black man is murdered by a white police officer, there will be this tension that rises up about terms like Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. All this tension does is create more tension and problems. A person saying that Black Lives Matter is not at all saying that other lives do not. There is no reason to try to counter it. Agree with it. Black lives do matter! 

A police officer had a man in custody, restrained, and proceeded take his life for no reason. It would not have happened had George Floyd been white. That is an atrocity. That is racism. The officer that kneeled on his neck should be charged and tried for murder according to the evidence of the video. The other officers should be charged and tried as accessories. Any person not wearing a badge would have been arrested on the spot. Accountability must happen for these incidents to stop.

This event should not have happened and should NOT ever happen. Black lives matter.

The only way this will ever change is if we all first admit that there is a problem. People will have counter arguments to point to something else as the problem. They are simply trying to lessen the sting in their own hearts and hide their prejudice and racism. 

It’s easier to point to some other source for the problem than to face the ugliness within.

There is a problem. Racism is a problem. It is systemic. It is pervasive. It is real. It is way more common than is ever admitted.

This must change.

One step beyond admitting there is a problem is to listen. Stop talking. Stop arguing. Stop complaining. LISTEN! Listen to those who truly walk in fear every day that they are going to be the next victim.

White privilege is real and white people need to stop acting like it isn’t. As a white man, I do not know what it is like to live in fear that if I get pulled over I might also get shot. I do not know what it is like to fear that my child might be hunted down in the street by thugs with a shotgun and pickup truck because he was jogging in their neighborhood. 

I have been called out of a house at the gunpoint of 5 police officers and not once was I afraid they were going to shoot. I don’t believe a black man would have been as confident. The police suspected a possible home break-in and burglary and I was never on the ground or handcuffed. I firmly believe a black man in the same situation would have been handcuffed for at least a few minutes. That alone is the definition of White Privilege.

Here is what I know. Men are dead who should not be. To stop this, we need to start with dealing with the racism and prejudice in our own hearts. We need to stop screaming and start listening. The key to building bridges is to seek to understand before being understood. There is no debate to win here. Stop arguing. Start listening. One thing I have learned is that genuine curiosity goes a long way toward bridging the gap between me and someone else. It’s not about thinking the same. It’s about understanding there is a different perspective. It’s about understanding that we are humans navigating a human problem and we are deeply deeply flawed. It’s not a problem of “theirs”; it is a problem of ours. We must own it to solve. We must own it to move forward.

We need to stop ignoring it with phrases like, “a few bad apples ruin the bushel.” 

This is a bigger issue that exists in the hearts of all of us that we need to acknowledge and begin conversations where we listen, learn, and grow together. If we can get on the same side and fight for one another, fight for reconciliation, fight for love, then there will be less death. Maybe, just maybe we will begin to stop looking at one another in fear and start looking at one another in faith. We don’t fear those we trust. We don’t fear those we love. We fear for them. We watch out for them. We fight for them.

Fear is the enemy. Ignorance is the enemy’s weapon. Hate, racism, and violence are the outcomes.

Love is the answer. Love is not easy. Love is not clean. Love is not simple. Love requires courage. Love confronts the darkness within. Love shines a light and leads toward real peace.

Love doesn’t demand its own rights. Love doesn’t demean. It doesn’t destroy. 

Love builds. Love heals. Love bridges the divide.

My hope, my prayer is that we can begin to listen, to understand, to trust, to love. Our differences should not threaten us or cause us to fear. We should celebrate the uniquenesses of each one and honor and respect where we are different. The diversity is the beauty.

I will not waste my time trying to prove a point. Instead, I will spend my energies eradicating prejudice and ignorance in my life and heart and take away the weapons of fear. 

I will seek to understand. I will listen. I choose love. I hope others will join me. I hope you will join me.

Note: I will leave comments open as long as there is dialogue that is civil. I reserve the right to delete any comment that is offensive, calls names, or intends to incite others.


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