To many, this is a tired topic, but as redundant as it sounds, it’s a conversation that still must be had. Even though it’s 2017 and, by this point, the entire world should know better, we really haven’t learned much. Let’s talk about racism.
Seventy five percent of white Americans do not believe there is racial bias in the criminal justice system, or think that racism is not really a problem in this country. If a person states the contrary, they are subjected to being labeled as oversensitive “snowflakes” who get easily offended. The conversation is cut short. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s easier to change the subject and continue to pretend it doesn’t exist.
There are a lot of well-intentioned folks who are probably not aware of their own racial biases. This is due to the systemic, subtle racism that’s so ingrained in our social fabric, that unless you’re paying very close attention, you might even miss it. You might miss it, that is, unless it’s directed at you.
One of the best ways to try to understand this issue is to listen―really listen―to the stories of people who face it every single day of their lives. They have experiences that are part of their reality merely because they were born with a different skin color than the majority of the country. Take, for example, my good friend, Tina (her name has been changed to protect her privacy). Tina is black. So is her husband. She is a lawyer. He is a chef at a very prestigious country club. Recently, as Tina’s husband was leaving work, still wearing his chef’s uniform, a regular patron/country club guest approached him and asked him if he could shine her shoes. Now, tell me, blond, blue-eyed person, has this ever happened to you? Because if it hasn’t, you don’t get to say that racism is not really a problem.
We live in a country where if we say black lives matter, someone has to quip that all lives matter. All lives matter, that is, unless you’re a Syrian refugee, or a lawful Green Card holder being detained at an airport. In that event, American lives matter more. We live in a country where if Colin Kaepernick kneels down during the national anthem, instead of trying to understand what would drive a person to do that, people’s first instinct is to criticize him and ridicule him―to state that he should be thankful he makes so much money and that if he hates this country so much, he can leave. But what is the right way to protest? If it’s done in a peaceful way on the streets, it’s criticized. If it’s done by wearing a shirt with a message, it’s criticized. If it’s mentioned on social media, it creates division and people delete/unfriend each other. You can’t even call them out on it, because the tables are turned, and suddenly, the unintentional racists are the victims. So at the end of the day, it seems like the only socially acceptable solution for privileged people is to not mention it at all. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Because if it’s mentioned, it means we are “making everything about race.” But guess what, my dearest readers, everything is about race; and until we fix this problem, it will continue to be.
If despite all the evidence to the contrary, cognitive dissonance prevents you from believing that racism really is a pervasive problem in the United States, do your country and fellow Americans a favor: Stop seeing attempts to have this conversation as an insult. It’s a blindfold. Not all racists are overt, KKK members who take pride in their hate. They are regular people who wake up every day, go to work, pay their bills, and go on about their lives, not really intending to be racists. But the reality continues to be that racism has become a way of life; and the only way to attempt to make amends is to address the issue, instead of sweeping it under a rug, or continuing to believe that it’s not really a problem, only because it’s not a problem for you.