We are not racists.
But that never makes the news.
Blood, death, destruction, wacky, stupid, these are the things that make the news.
So if I say we are not racists, how do you explain comments that sound racist?
Perhaps it is conditioning.
We have been conditioned since before we were born, to accept somethings as normal and other things as not so normal.
A couple of things stand out in my memory that pertain to the subject of race.
My parents did not foster any racists stereotypes in me during my formative years, or afterward.
The only prejudice I recall from my Dad was in my early teen years and it wasn’t a race issue.
It was the young family who moved in next door. He was a garbage man. I mean his job was working on a garbage truck. My Dad worked in a white collar profession and was concerned that the new neighbors would have lower standards and not keep up their property. Not that our home was a showcase, but it was a nice older middle class neighborhood.
Years later my Dad told me this story, about how wrong he was to prejudge the family and how they became friends and excellent neighbors with each other over the years. My parents have passed away and last year I saw the husband and wife who used to live next door and never told them about my Dad’s first prejudicial thoughts. There was no need to.
I know from my first experience buying a house a dozen years ago what it’s like to be the new neighbors who are looked at with a prejudicial eye. Our neighbor Bernie heard saw that we were building a “shed” in our backyard and he warned us that if it didn’t fit the neighborhood rules, we’d have to remove it. My wife responded that he was welcome to take a hammer and knock it down if it wasn’t up to snuff. In the end, he was helping us assemble the roof and commented about the high quality of the structure. We became good friends with Bernie.
But what about race?
In the predominately white neighborhood I grew up in, there was one black family and I went to school with the oldest daughter. Among the kids, Chandra was accepted just like anyone else. I saw a similar situation years later when I moved my family into a mixed neighborhood in Detroit and after living there awhile, my daughter made the observation that the boys next door were black. Not that it mattered, it was just a matter of fact observation and statement that was made. We became good friends with them and while we as adults were aware of some cultural differences, there was no racism on either side.
I believe in my original statement, We are not racists, as a country. We may have some prejudices, but those can be overcome as we get to know the people and not just our stereotypical assumptions.
The racist label is sometimes used in broad terms because there are individuals who display racist behavior. I’d be the first to challenge someone who uses race as a reason to not like someone. This is where it has often gotten political over the past several years.
When Barrack Obama became a candidate for President of the United States, and then won and won a second term, some were hoping this was a signal that race was no longer a factor and that we the people of the United States had graduated from the earlier prejudices that were labeled as racist. Unfortunately, it appears that race became a bigger issue, at least in the news media.
Critics of the President’s policies were sometimes labeled racist. Some of them were called racist because they said racist things that were totally out of line. Supporters of the President’s policies, saw this and ran with it, calling and and all critics racists.
I have heard people use terrible language, unfair language, prejudicial language when being critical of Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes. Now that we have had President Obama in office, that terrible, unfair, prejudicial language has dipped down even further into racial slurs in some cases.
If you disagree with President Obama, please do not stoop to race as a reason to criticize. And if you agree with President Obama, please refrain from using race as the sole reason for your praise.
As a county, not once but twice, we have proven we will not discriminate against someone running for election based solely on their race. Let’s be proud of that step forward and focus on policy instead.