Today’s blogging suggestion from the Ultimate Blogging Challenge was to “share your two cents.” Express your viewpoint on things that are happening in the world. Today, I chose to write about racism as something that is happening in the world that is creating horrible problems.
I am an American, and I see racism as a cancer on our society. Racism is the monster that hides under the bed. It is the poison that seeps into our pores, whether we are aware of it or not. It is the cancer that eats our hearts and our souls. It causes us to look at others as less than ourselves. It is part of our daily life, even if we don’t realize it. When we look at other people, what do we see? Do we see individuals with names and with gifts and with challenges, like all other human beings, or do we put them into groups and decide which groups are good and which are bad, based on the color of their skin? How do we talk about other people? Do we use such terms as “those people” and then ascribe negative traits to “those people,” who are, of course, not as good as “our people.” Do we think that their lives have less value than ours?
- "they ran from the police and were shot to death. If you didn't do anything wrong, you wouldn't run from the police." (justification of summary execution or extrajudicial killing by police)
- "waving a toy gun means that it's OK to shoot you, if you're black" (Tamir Rice was twelve years old. He was killed for being black and for being immature, which is a common condition among people who are twelve years old.)
- "those people don't want to work. Those people just want to collect welfare and be leeches on society." (yes, someone said that one directly to me, causing me to gape at him. When that person noticed that I was gaping, instead of agreeing, he said, "Really, that's what those people do." "Those people???" I said, as the other person left to find a more receptive audience.)
Racism has been a part of the history of the United States. The creation of the United States was steeped in racism. The majority of the Founding Fathers were slave owners. Despite the fact that they created a country that was meant to be a great experiment in democracy, that democracy was limited to people who were considered worthy of it. At first, it was white male property owners. Women were seen as the possessions of their husbands. The slaves were not even seen as complete human beings. Each one was, when counted by the census, just five-eighths of a human.
After slavery ended, black people were still not seen as free and equal. Slavery was replaced by Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the horrors of lynching. Those were the visible signs of racism. The more subtle signs of racism included redlining (the practice of denying mortgages and other services to people, based on their race), “white flight,” and “food ghettos” (places where the only food stores available are convenience stores, with limited selections and higher prices).
Our racist history extended to the first nations. The Native Americans were seen as savages to be exterminated. Their land was to be appropriated (stolen). Treaties with Native American tribes were seen as optional, despite the fact that treaties have the force of law, according to the U.S. Constitution. One of the most notorious incidents of attempted genocide was the Trail of Tears, when the Five Civilized Tribes were put on a forced march from their homes in the southeast to an area now known as Oklahoma. Many people died during that forced march.
Our racist history includes such things as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This was legislation that was approved by Congress and signed by President Chester Arthur. It was the first significant law that restricted immigration to the United States of an entire ethnic group. It was followed by immigration restrictions against Japanese, Filipinos, and other Asians. During World War II, Americans of Japanese ancestry were relocated to internment camps and were held there as prisoners. It was one of the more shocking and flagrant civil rights violations that occurred in the United States. It can be seen as a racist action because Americans of German and Italian ancestry were not placed in internment camps.
That sort of history does not magically disappear. It is still part of our society. Even though there are people who say:
· This is a post racial world. Race is not an issue.
· I don’t see color.That is just not true. To cure the cancer of racism, we have to talk about it. We have to talk about our attitudes. Our history is not good but our future could be better. Acknowledging the problem is just a first step. The next step is more active. We have to change our attitudes. We have to listen to people who have been directly affected by racism. We have to hear their stories and acknowledge that we may have benefited from their pain. We have to listen to their voices. I believe that will be a start to eradicating the horrible cancer called racism.