By most definitions, at least as they were generally accepted in what seems like light years ago, but what in reality was not that long ago, I was not a racist; so stated by people of a race not my own.
That perception would have been based on two things: what they knew of my personal history and what they had observed of my values and behavior. Perfect? No way, deprogramming takes time and effort for people who deem it important to shed as much negative programming as possible, as a pathway to self-evolution; to be “ever better”.
Personal history, values and behavior are no longer considered. The color of my skin is the dominant, singular consideration.
Is there endemic racism, yes; does skin color act as a determinant in some sec tors, yes; is there a difference to being born black, yes. I was taught that long ago, gently by a friend. We found ourselves on opposite sides of an issue that involved race. A friend who assured me that “waking up black every morning” came with the self-perception and pressures of having to be better than the next guy just to hold steady. He told me he knew I was not a racist but that there was no way for me to relate to the actuality of his experience as a black man. I could empathize at an intellectual level but not at an emotional level. That lesson was a major part of my ongoing effort to be “ever better.” The unspoken commentary was the converse; that those feelings should not have to be the case.
Now I’m besieged with the position that carefully considered behavior, good intent and conscious effort to insure that I do not engage in racist perceptions and behaviors is just a masking agent born out of guilt to shield my inherent, actual racism from view. According to many there is nothing I can do about it; I was born a racist and will always be a racist, in some renderings that also applies to my 14 week old Granddaughter.
You must be constantly assailed by a reminder that by virtue of your “whiteness” you also enjoy “privilege”; asked and answered. The original message I absorbed was gentle, it is not so gentle anymore. And the idea that skin color determines attitudes is a one sided equation with those selfsame sources arguing that there is no such thing as black racism.
We quickly evolved to a point where nearly everything involved a charge of racism in some form or another; contextual, universal racism or event specific racism: who you spoke with, what kind of earrings you wore, the music you enjoyed, racist all. And as a racist you were not entitled to the blessings of free speech. Disagreement was shouted down as I expect this commentary will be.
We then took a full Half Gainer into the rabbit hole. Black students began to demand …..wait for it….. segregation; segregated commencement ceremonies, segregated housing. Liberia? The Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s was being tossed aside in favor of re-segregation. Sure, I know they’re students but the movements of nearly 70 years ago were also supported, in large measure, by students. Including white students attempting to be “ever better.”
I am being driven to apathy. The Black intelligentsia has told me over and over again, there is nothing I can do. I do not enjoy the blessings of free will, my efforts at positive evolution is chimera. What’s to be done? Answer; nothing meaning you need to just get out of the way as a small percentage of the population dictates what is appropriate for the rest; a formula for intellectual and behavioral apathy if there ever way one. Unfortunately it is also the formula for a real racist backlash. That backlash will be silent, there will be no mass movement demonstrations just a reapplication of the “smiling to your face, stabbing you in the back racism”. Many will content, perhaps rightly so, that is already the case. It will get worse, much worse.
The gentler message worked better!