One of the messages coming out clearly from across much of the country, including Greene County, is that people are tired of racism.
They may be outraged at the filmed incident in Minneapolis, they may be upset about the man in Central Park having the police called on him for nothing, or any of the other examples of bigotry we see published daily. The question is, are they sick of and tired of racism enough to actually do something about it?
I have not ever met anyone who calls him or herself a racist. I have, however, met a lot of racists and know quite a few. Racism is based on having power over people of other races. In modern times it has been exacerbated by two events. The terrorist attack of 9/11 made a lot of white Americans aware for the first time that there are people who would wish to harm them who have never met them. People of color have always known that. I had a very difficult time when my white friends and colleagues approached me during that time period and asked with dismay, “Why do they hate us, we have never done anything to them. They do not even know us,” not answering, “Welcome to my world.” The second event was the election of a black President which scared a lot of white people.
Racism has no logical base or foundation, it has no reason at all, it is based on misinformation, willful ignorance or misplaced animus. It has been carefully cultivated in this country since the late 17th century when the need for a stable workforce made slavery the solution selected based on economics and justified by the development of a system of racism.
Nothing black people or other racial minorities have done or not done causes racism. It is strictly a mindset of people who need to feel superior and in control of other people based on their race.
So, how do we at least lessen it in our society? We do not ignore it. We do not fail to listen when we are told about incidents and then dismiss them as a rare anomaly that is none of our business. You cannot work to eradicate or lessen racism by simply declaring you are not a racist. That is like saying you are going to eradicate world hunger by eating a sandwich. You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.
It takes work and it takes risk. People who speak up against race are not going to find themselves popular everywhere. You will get responses like:
“Why do you bring that up all the time?”
“Why do you make everything about race?”
“I think we should all just be colorblind.”
People have lots of stressors in their lives, particularly now, they do not want another thing to think or worry about. Not having to think about race is part of white privilege and nobody wants to give up their privilege whatever that might be.
But unless I miss my guess, we are approaching a time, fed by many things, including a growing minority population, that it will be more difficult to ignore race. It is sure to play a big part in the coming presidential election, perhaps even some local and state elections. And there are more and more white allies willing to speak out against race and racism and bigotry in all its forms.
Racism is a fire that is burning down things that America is supposed to stand for and you cannot put out a fire by ignoring it. Speak up, stand up and do something, or watch it burn.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.