Nobody thinks they’re a racist.
People tweet about blacks being apes or gorillas and, when confronted, claim they’re not racists.
Then (for some bloody reason) a reporter interviews a friend of theirs who, invariably, answers with their boilerplate “I know (Terry/Janice/Jim) and they’re a good person without a mean bone in their body.”
I will put all the money in my pocket against all the money in your pocket that there wasn’t a “mean bone” in the bodies of all those folks pictured standing around watching a Black person’s body sag while hanging from a tree, the lifeless frame a grotesque reminder that this world did not value them equally. They were not viewed as human, but rather as something bestial (ape-like), savage (gorilla-like), and lesser in all ways.
This country has a long and relatively ignored history of racial discrimination.
This is the part where you tune out. Why would you read any further?
“I know, I know,” you say, “things haven’t been fair, but everybody has something. My dad was (Italian/Irish/German) and they had to earn their way, and people hated them too.”
At this point, as an educated (never enough) and “woke” individual, one is faced with either: attempting to educate this uninterested individual in 10 minutes or less about the racism inherent in the Constitution, slavery, Jim Crow, propaganda, The Southern Strategy, the Three-fifths Compromise, Dred Scott, The Crime Bill, and a myriad of nuanced issues that merely form the rudimentary groundwork for the larger conversation of colonialism and conquest, and white supremacy.
Or…you just throw your hands up because you realize that you can’t make someone interested in your story, and precious little has transpired in their lifetime to make them interested. This is the truth of America. White has been and still is front and center as the paragon of excellence.
I wasn’t born into this world with a complex set of hierarchies predicated upon race and sex, but the world went to work quickly. The Heroes: Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, Starsky and Hutch, Stallone (the storied “Great White Hope”), Arnold, Little House on the Prairie, Dallas, Dynasty, example upon example of power and luminescence. Was Harrison Ford really sexier than Billy Dee Williams? Was Sylvester Stallone really better than Carl Weathers? In my lifetime I hadn’t seen a guy looking like that winning like that.
Then there were the Black faces. The Jeffersons, Good Times, Sanford and Son, that skinny guy “Sticks” on the episode of Happy Days where they remembered Black people also lived in the 50s (fortunately, as always, a white protector interceded on this frail, proud negro’s behalf.)
But where was I on television? I was raised the son of a military officer. I was competitive and excelled in athletics; I was in the “gifted” programs; I was popular and, dare I say, not unattractive… why wasn’t I beating up bad guys every Wednesday night, wearing sharp suits, and doing sexy shit with sexy people?
The point is, you don’t have to walk around harboring negative, Klan-like thoughts every moment to be guilty of harboring racist thoughts or, what’s actually worse, being woefully misinformed about the way our country has operated.
You can’t discuss black-on-black violence unless you’ve educated yourself on colonialism and the post-Civil War treatment of blacks institutionally.
You can’t talk about blacks and welfare without an understanding of the different worlds that exist when a black face asks for a loan, or walks into a store, or into an elevator.
And it is here where the racist is at his/her worst. Their sheer ignorance is shrouded in indignation because no one likes to be wrong, and the only thing worse than being wrong is being a bad person.
And when Trump started talking, this person finally felt vindicated. Here was a guy who would say all those (racist) things they couldn’t without the stupid, liberal, politically-correct world accusing them of being bad again. Finally, someone who knows Muslims are evil and out to kill me, Mexicans are ruining my country, Blacks are like stupid, violent children, and women are made to be sexual objects.
But since a person can’t openly admit to these things, they contrived the flimsiest of semi-palatable excuses:
- “We need to shake things up!” (By hiring a racist, misogynist with no previous interest in serving America…)
- “I’m a social liberal but a fiscal conservative!” (I want to choke off all public assistance to blacks but say I’m a good person…)
- “Hillary is corrupt and lies!” (But I’m willing to completely disregard the multitude of lies he tells and lawsuits against him…)
- “Hillary is bought and paid for by Wall Street!” (But I’m cool with him surrounding himself with Wall Street…)
- “I know he loves America!” (Even though he avoided military service, won’t show you where his money goes, and has never, ever donated any of his billions to helping our soldiers…)
So I’m left asking myself how a person can possibly be okay with a man who habitually lies about the perceived negative characteristics in people of color, lies over 70 percent of the time (check for yourself at www.politifact.com), pontificates with neither art nor acumen, spends an inordinate amount of time tweeting about every perceived slight, and spent seven years accusing the President of the United States of being a foreigner simply because he was dark-skinned? How can all of this be okay with you unless you either agree with his statements about Muslims, Mexicans, and blacks (all statistically false), or don’t care because these people don’t really matter?
I want to extend my hand and absolve the Trump voter, but I cannot. I see through him and I see through them, and that is a very uncomfortable feeling.
I do not think Trump is the beginning of these issues, or that Hillary and other politicians have not been involved in odious practices that have further disenfranchised the under-represented.
Because chances are we all have biases. And, hopefully, we catch ourselves in those brief moments and remind ourselves that we can’t generalize about an entire race based on our limited exposure and experience (hence the importance of data and statistics) just because they look a certain way.
But simply ignoring what history has wrought, or giving it passing attention with a demeaning nod to how bad it’s been with no actual skin in the game or effort to better educate one’s self is just another way of weaving yourself into our racist framework, and wrapping yourself in the quilt of guys like Donald J. Trump.