Are You A Racist? Am I?

I’m extremely proud to introduce the latest member of the ghetto community, Steve. He’s the author of Opinion In Progress and posts online as the Open Minded Observer.

I first ran across my guy Steve’s page, Opinion In Progress (OIP) a month ago. He had followed TGA, and as I do all my followers as soon as they follow me, I checked out his shit. The first piece I read was Some Thoughts on Amber Guyger’s Verdict. Now, no cap, I didn’t know what that expect bruh. I follow a wide range of opinions on WordPress, so I really walked into the piece with an open mind. My guy didn’t disappoint. He offered a perspective on the case that, honestly speaking, was refreshing to read. I highly suggest checking that piece out, but only after reading today’s feature.

After reading his thoughts on the Guyger verdict, I figured what the hell, why stop there? I told myself that I’ll scroll down his page and only stop for a title that completely catches me. I hit his site’s main page and did exactly that, I got to scrolling.

So there I was scrolling my ass off and then boom, there it was… A title I couldn’t pass up… And that’s not to say all the other pieces before it wasn’t worth reading either. It’s just the fact that this one sparked a question I had to know the answer to.

What was the title you ask?

Well, without further to do, I present Are You A Racist? Am I?

Are You A Racist? Am I?

Webster’s dictionary didn’t have a definition of “racist” at the time of this writing, but it defines racism as, “a belief that race is the primary of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race,” and lists another definition as, “racial prejudice or discrimination.

You could spend all day looking up definitions of race, racism, racist and discrimination. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure you’d be able to provide evidence that you’re a racist and/or that you’re not, simply by selecting the right combination of definitions.

That’s not the point, is it?

We get so hung up on the connotations of the label that we lose sight of the rationale behind using the word. The words racist and racism are used in conversations about everything from lynchings to affirmative action. Some people use a definition that requires intended malice, some require an oppressor/oppressed relationship, and others use it whenever race played any part of anything.

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The Unite the Right rally | Aug 11, 2017 – Aug 12, 2017

I think everyone can agree that a white guy marching with a tiki torch and shouting about White Power is a racist. (Well… almost everyone). Most people agree that a white employer selectively hiring only white employees based on race is racist. There are also people that believe a black guy marching in a beret and leather jacket shouting about Black Power or a black employer hiring only black employees is racist… or, more specifically a “reverse racist.” (That’s a stupid term because if you reverse racism, then… wait… I guess then you have justice. So, maybe it’s not such a stupid term)

Further, when you start trying to nail down racial “discrimination” it really can technically be applied in any case where a decision is made based on race. Whether that decision is in favor of or an effort to oppress a group of people being categorized into a “race.”

What does all that mean? I have no idea but, here’s what I believe

Programs designed to help create a more equitable society are not racist. A TV network like BET isn’t racist because it is an attempt to correct the imbalance of all the other networks. Using the concepts of race to help college student populations more accurately reflect the demographics of society is not racist. Creating a Black History Month to offset the other eleven months where people ignore and dismiss the achievements and contributions of Black people is not racist. I believe these things are working to combat the effects of racism.

Like Newton’s 3rd law, every racist oppressive action must be met with an equal and opposite anti-racist action in order to achieve equilibrium.

So that’s what isn’t racist, but, what is?

In my opinion, any action that results in furthering the oppression of another race. That includes the obvious like preventing people from voting, refusing them bank loans, not hiring them and denying them entry to places of business.

What is not so obvious is that it also includes; choosing a different car salesperson because the white one looked more familiar, voting to fund only local schools at the expense of underfunded cities that lack income due to historical oppression, refusing to acknowledge racial disparities in measurable statistics, diminishing or undermining activist efforts by oppressed groups and even colorblind apathy toward the struggle of oppressed groups

Expecting an oppressed group to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” requires being willfully ignorant of the lack of school funding, mortgages, and jobs that might make that possible. Choosing to disregard or ignore the impact disproportionate policing and incarceration has on families, support networks, and employment opportunities, allows the cycle to continue and therefore, willful ignorance and apathy are no less racist than flying the stars & bars and shouting slurs from the bed of a pickup.

So… Are you a racist? Am I?

I think we all carry racial bias. Whether it’s subtle or overt, whether we’re actively working to overcome it or not. If you live in the United States, odds are, you’re biased. Those biases have a real-world impact on other people and bickering about the label is missing the point.

Personally, I have absolutely done things, said things and worn things that were racist. I like to say those things were out of ignorance rather than malice because hate was never in my heart. The outcome was the same though, so that’s an irrelevant distinction. The truth is, my race affords me the luxury of ignorance but, that’s no excuse for actually being ignorant. So, label me a racist or not. Either way, I’ll work harder to eradicate racism. Why? Because feelings being hurt over a label doesn’t really matter when compared with the daily, real-world impact of racism on its victims.

A Word From The Open Minded Observer

In general, I hate racism.

Seriously, I’m far from perfect, I’ve made mistakes along the way and I’m 100% guilty of being insensitive from time to time (more so in my younger years). I’ve been a white guy wearing a confederate flag trucker hat in my teens until one day a black acquaintance schooled me, and I immediately tossed it into the trash bin a few feet away.

I’ve made insensitive jokes and even acknowledged them to the point of having a virtual “racist jar” like a swear jar because I knew they were wrong, but found the absurdity that some people truly felt that way funny. I’m not proud of any of that journey, but at the same time, I believe it gives me perspective and insight into what it’s like growing up in white suburbia in a colorblind household.

My ultimate goal is to help other people begin their own journeys into truly understanding why racism exists while continuing to grow as a person. The best way to do that is by interacting with others. So, I write to spark conversation so we can all interact.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Raven. says:

    “willful ignorance and apathy are no less racist than flying the stars & bars and shouting slurs from the bed of a pickup.”

    Thanks for this insight! People really do toss terminology around, believing that they are interchangeable. I also hate the use (or misuse) of the term ‘reverse racism’. I find a lot of times people will interrupt racism as an individual act of prejudice rather than acknowledging it as an institution. That quote above I highlighted speaks volumes and I think provides an excellent summary to this piece. People hear the word racism and associate it with confederate flags, Klan meetings, and disgust/disdain for anyone Black, Brown, etc. But it is also the willful ignorance of someone who refuses to acknowledge the impact of redlining tactics that essentially created what we now know has housing projects or ‘the ghetto’. It’s believing that every person of color who is at a financial disadvantage is simply “not working hard enough”.

    Also, good on you for acknowledging your past and current mistakes. We all have racial bias but we also all have the ability to learn from our past and the power to educate ourselves in this ‘not-so-clear-cut’ field. Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment!
      People hear the word racism and associate it with confederate flags, Klan meetings, and disgust/disdain for anyone Black, Brown, etc.
      Part of me thinks that the White people that think that way do so because it allows them to look down on others and feel good about how “enlightened” they are rather than taking a moment to acknowledge their own privilege. The thing is, it’s not even hard to be honest about it. So, I’m coming to believe that there’s more emphasis on the “willful” part of “willful ignorance”.

      Like

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