Monday, August 26, 2013

Racism 50 Years Later: Where Do We Go From Here?

This Wednesday, the 28th, marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Washington and the broadcast of what is now called his, "I Have A Dream," speech.

I find it interesting that, just as we are going to pay tribute to that monumental moment, we are facing some upheaval in the United States that makes one wonder: how far have we really come in terms of race relations?  The media coverage of the George Zimmerman trial turned it into a race bait, even though it is a tragic case of a man and a younger man getting into a street brawl with one of them ending up dead.  It should be about a lot of things that would help us make better choices and better legislation but it didn't.  Instead it became about the color of skin.  It became about a white man killing a black man. Although, what you did not hear very often was that Travon Martin was unfamiliar to a neighborhood watch man, in a neighborhood being plagued by home break-ins and other issues committed by black youths.  The color issue seems to be one of those things that distracts us from the facts and turns a very sad case into something hateful and inflammatory.  Should the black man have been thought of as suspicious by the white man?  In a perfect world, no.  But, in a perfect world, black men wouldn't be committing the crimes that tend to make everyone suspicious of someone they don't know.  Since it was a white man who did the shooting, the media wanted to make this one about race.

Just last week in Oklahoma, a good looking Australian exchange student was murdered by two teenagers.  Why was he killed?  Was it because he was in a neighborhood in which he should have known better not to be?  Or because he was in a brawl?  Or because he said anything hateful?  No.  He was murdered while out for his regular run in a quiet neighborhood.  Why?  Because the ass-hats who did it proudly crow, "We were bored,"  while one danced around and carried on like a fool during the booking process. It may not have been race related, but when you read some of the stuff the shooter posted about hating most white people on his FB and Twitter, it makes it very frightening that a young person would feel these things and act on them.

Are you freaking kidding me?  We had a young man murdered as the result of boredom?  How incredibly awful.  The perpetrators are reported to have been running wild in their neighborhood without supervision of any kind for quite awhile.  The mother is in jail.  A father?  Nope, not around.  It's like these kids had gone feral.  It's interesting, however, that different from the Zimmerman coverage, since these criminals are young black men who killed a man who happened to be white, the media really do want to make certain we don't immediately jump to the conclusion that this was a racist hate crime.  Interesting.

What do these two incidences and how the news covered them, have to do with the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's famous speech?  I'd say everything.  I am a 58 year old, white woman who was an impressionable eight year old when The March on Washington happened; I remember it.  And, as a white woman, having the Civil Rights Movement as part of my history, I have always believed it is my moral responsibility to never judge individuals because of the color of their skin.

That hasn't been necessarily easy; I was born in the mid-50s, grew up in downtown Baltimore in the 60s when serious race riots happened in many major cities, and came of age in the 70s when peace and love were important and so was making race a non-issue.  In those early years, although the beginnings of awareness that racism is anathema, names like nigger, spick, cracker, honkie, kike, wop, guinea, dago, mick, bo-hunk, etc, were still used without a trace of discomfort.  They were part of our world.  Hell, we even used phrases like, "jewed him down," when we were crowing about getting something for absolute bottom dollar!

But thankfully, even though it seems slow, we are a long way from those days when how we thought about someone was decided by their color or nationality.  Are we where we should be?  No, but we are far better than we were.  And, with each generation that comes along, color becomes less and less important until it would seem that our children are becoming almost color blind when it comes to people.  Pretty amazing when you consider it.

So, here we are 50 years after Dr. King's speech and I'm really questioning. After all the affirmative action, and social programs, public housing, education, discussion, and now political correctness, are we any better, a half century later?

I say yes and no.  And,  I'm going to be totally Politically Incorrect and add, I am sick to death of  the continual suggestion that white people are racists and that race relations in the U.S. are still awful. Even more, I reject the notion that most white people are racists who have simply learned not to share their thoughts out loud.

I'm also sick of feeling as though race relations rests completely on the white race changing the way we are, the way things are.  We all play a part in the success, or failure, of this issue.  Why don't we spend as much time talking about what people of color should be doing about this issue?  Where are they in meeting whites somewhere in the middle to help things change instead of standing back and waiting for miserable whitey to finally get it?  And, why does it seem that when an African American of notoriety, like comedian Bill Cosby, calls out his own about their behavior, he's called an Uncle Tom or completely dis'd by the black community?

Dr. King, a black father, movingly said, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."   What a beautiful wish for his children!  All children should have a passionate parent who would dream such huge dreams for them.

Dr. King, I completely agree with you.  And, even though I grew up in a world that didn't always recognize the correctness of this sentiment, I have always tried to meet each Human Being with this in mind. I think the average person does as well.  But lately?  Lately, all I am is very frustrated.

Lately, I am left to question the increasing sounds of people telling me I don't like them simply because I am white and they are not.  IT'S NOT ABOUT YOUR COLOR!  IT'S ABOUT THE WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE!

While I do everything in my power to not judge you by the color of your skin, it's up to you to live your life in such a way that I can only judge you by the content of your character!  You must do the hard work to live your life in a way that requires that others immediately recognize the content of your character.

If you are a woman and have a a child out of wedlock, I think you have chosen a hard life, but I support you in that choice.  I support you having a child and raising it.  I don't insist you be married.  But, if you continue to have children with different men and they don't even know their fathers or share their last names?  What would make you think that is correct?  Currently, the statistic is that 75 per cent of black children are born out of wed-lock or into broken homes. More and more white children are homeless or in terrible situations. More grand parents are becoming the guardians of these children as drug addicted or absent parents drift away.  That is not all right.  I don't care what color you's wrong.

If you are a man having sex without using birth control and your children are scattered all over, who you do not financially and emotionally support, who wouldn't know you were their father if they bumped into you, that's not all right.  I don't care what color your's wrong.

If you decide that it's all right for you to call each other nigga because you are black, but want to hurt a white person who uses the word, it's wrong.  You don't have the right to use that word in songs and in public if you have determined it's hate speech.  I don't care what color you are, if the word is hateful, it's wrong to use it.

If you act out in public with your pants down around your thighs so that your ass is out and I see your underwear, you act in a way that is disrespectful to yourself and those around you.  It is not a fashion statement, it's stupid.  I don't care what color you are, it's wrong.

If you find yourself in school and you don't do everything you can to maximize the opportunity you are being given, it's wrong.  If the school you are in is broken or not teaching you, go find a mentor, go find a tutor, go find an adult who will help you.  Don't sit there and say, "It's not my fault they're not teaching me anything," go look for someone who would be more than happy to help you!  Hell, call me, I'm happy to tutor you!

If you can do something to help your neighborhood come together and begin to regain its peace and sense of community, but instead you run in gangs, take part in drive by shootings that kill innocent children, sell drugs, and terrorize people, it's wrong.  If you don't help people in need, beginning with your family and extend a helping hand to those around you,  I don't care what color you are, it's wrong.

If you have the opportunity to form a committed relationship and a secure family instead of using each other like sex toys and spreading unwanted children all over the place, and you don't do it, it's wrong.  I don't care what color you are, it's wrong.

If you don't look for a connection with the God of your understanding, and instead act in a godless, miserable way, spreading hate, fear and crime, I DON'T CARE WHAT COLOR YOU ARE, IT'S WRONG!!!!

And, I'm not racist expressing these ideas.  Nor am I wrong to call "Bullshit," on those insisting that I am intrinsically racist simply because I was born white.  If you believe that, aren't you acting in a racist way, or am I missing something?!

So, as I see it, here's the challenge, (and the liberating thing is that this whole racism issue is no longer just the white race's issue to correct,) because...

...I can very successfully not judge you by the color of your skin.  Thanks to Dr. King and other people who were part of the Civil Rights Movement who helped us all to understand the importance of this.  BUT, only you can decide to live your life in a way that compels me to respect you, by the content of your character.

We have a lot of work to do in this country, but it's the work of all.  It's no longer enough to point a finger at Whitey and say it's their work alone.   If we want racism to vanish so that we're not having this same conversation at the 100th anniversary of Dr. King's speech, it's not enough for only white people to hold themselves accountable.  People of color must also work within the framework of our collective society to bring about the change that is needed.  And, if we really wish to eradicate racism, we must teach children that it's not enough to be color-blind; they must live their lives justly so that the content of their character is the only measure.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
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