Friday, August 7, 2009

Race in America III

Based on a recent story reported in the news, I found myself doing a bit of self exploration concerning racism. Obviously this is a very emotional and personal issue with many people, both the protagonists and the antagonists. Opinions and feelings run deep. I wanted to spend some time wading in with a few thoughts of my own.

We are not born with these feelings or beliefs, but the racial indoctrination and divide starts young in our upbringing. A friend and I went to a wedding some years ago and arrived at the neighborhood church a bit early. We sat on the steps of a house across the street and were chatting to pass the time. Two young black children walked passed us. They were probably about 6 or 8 years old. We said hello to them as they passed and they nodded their heads. Once they went around the corner and out of sight, they began yelling "Honky, honky, honky". At the time it made me laugh. Now I shutter to think how these innocent minds are polluted and turned at such a young age. It makes me sad and makes me worry about our future and the direction that we are headed in.

Now I must own up. I myself am not immune to racist thoughts. I grew up in a household where racism lived. Any voice against it was met with ridicule and intolerance and absurd rationalizations. Try as I might to distance myself from this sickness, I look at non-caucasions with suspicion more often than I would like. This negativity is not even at a conscious level, and when it surfaces I must actively work to rebuke myself and acknowledge the truth. Sometimes I wonder if we throw out racist words because we know that they will most effectively wound others; perhaps we need to feel better about ourselves or the group that we are in, and we just repeat the consciousness of the collective to which we belong. There are, I am sure, many reasons why we harbor such hateful words or hateful beliefs or hateful ideas. My views on the subject are naturally distorted and biased, and perhaps irrelevant, because of my race. However, I understand that there are no simple explanations or simple fixes. I also must be extremely cautious not to minimize the real problem or to dismiss the situation as overblown.

So, what can be done about the problem? I don't believe that the answer will come from pamphlets, or litigation, or government mandates, or educational television. Sadly, my guess is that the only solution is the passage of time. With each new generation, racism in our society seems to diminish, to slowly dissipate. I can only hope that over the years this trend will continue, that our world will develop to go well beyond just mere tolerance, beyond mere acceptance, to a full embrace of all people, whatever their race.

(Part 3 of a 3 part series)