The Danger Of Ignoring The Gray: Racism On A Black-White Spectrum

08/14/2017 03:14 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2017
Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

It’s time to end this fallacy that if you aren’t wearing hoods or Swastikas and using the “n-word,” it means you are absolved from the many layers of prejudice.

Unfortunately, it’s much deeper and much more complex; and all of us have a role. Enough with sitting on the sidelines and staying silent for fear of making things uncomfortable.

We saw the extreme end of the racism spectrum in Charlottesville. Thankfully, this kind of overt, textbook racism is the exception and not the rule. But, even though these acts of bigoted violence rear their ugly heads infrequently, we oftentimes act as though everything is black and white and we ignore the gray area.

Hey! We elected our first black president. We don’t see color. It’s all good now, fam!

Far too often, this ideology leads to silence and apathy. These are the paths of least resistance. The issues of race don’t impact you directly so why bring that drama into your world?

It sounds nice, but this line of thinking is exceedingly flawed.

Let me be crystal clear right now: Inaction and silence are both layers to this cycle of oppression.

My social media timelines have been flooded with so many ill-informed rants on everything from Colin Kaepernick to Black Lives Matter. We lash out at things we don’t fully understand or have never experienced. It’s the easy way out.

But, the social media silence from my own friends, acquaintances, and loved ones on the attacks in Charlottesville says more to me than any hot take about National Anthem protests.

It takes strength and courage to educate oneself on things outside of their comfort zone. For many in the white community, the subject of race relations is best handled by the talking heads on cable news. It becomes easier to ignore the cause.

I grew up in a vastly predominately white Southern town. For many, I represent the only person of color they knew growing up. Yet most didn’t know I dealt with everyday aggressions:

  • receiving threats and suffering from racially-charged bullying

  • being spit on by fellow white students and classmates because of my skin color

  • having my background questioned by white friends for not being “black enough,” or (my favorite) “you’re only HALF black.” As if that level of blackness doesn’t count.

Not one person I know from my hometown ever bothered to ask me if I’d dealt with these kinds of stereotypes.

Not. One.

I’m far from trying to be the torchbearer for suffering. My fellow minorities from all walks of life—LGBTQ, Muslim, women, etc.—have many additional experiences to share.

We are all angered. We are in pain. We are saddened and hopeless that this shit will never change, or that this cycle of oppression will continue, or perhaps even worsen somehow.

And we feel alone in this battle. Enough is enough.

To my white friends, family members and colleagues: I’m asking you to take a minute to ask some questions and conduct some introspection.

Avoid missing out on another opportunity to learn and expand your mind. It’s up to you to be just as outraged as we are today … and tomorrow ... and the next day.

The Black community, the LGBTQ community, women, Muslims, minorities of all walks of life are inherently included in this struggle for justice. But, we can’t win this fight unless we get reinforcements from those at the top.

If you are just as outraged as we are, then show it with the same level of passion that we bring to the ongoing battle for equality and respect.

Understand that this is not simply black and white. There is a vast gray area in this fight, with apathy being the chief injustice in that middle ground.

Going forward, your apathy can only be considered as complicity in the hatred that continues to plague our discourse.

Make the change now to speak out.

Challenge that racist uncle at Thanksgiving. Call out the uncomfortable crap by pops. Stand up to your friends and coworkers. Demand more from your kids and get familiar with their acquaintances.

Stop being silent. Stop being comfortable even though much of this doesn’t affect you directly. Start speaking up.

And please, start asking some damn questions. Even if it means not liking some of the answers. And even if it means asking more questions tomorrow and the next day.

We can’t begin to solve these issues without the silent majority finally speaking up.

Previously published on GoodMenProject.com.

Pete Cataldo shares his take on the zany trials of juggling entrepreneurship and first-time fatherhood at PeteCataldo.com. He’s also the co-Mastermind of the fatherhood-focused men’s lifestyle blog DaddyMindTricks.com. A former TV Sports Anchor, Pete now spends his time writing, blogging, podcasting and lending his voice to commercials as a professional voice actor. An accomplished journalist and writer, Pete’s work has been featured in EarlytoRise.com, the GoodMenProject.com, CityDadsGroup.com and RomanFitnessSystems.com.

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