I had written this post originally back in 11/14 of 2016. The country had just learned that we now had a new president and we were all trying to figure out what we were going to deal with. I have since stayed pretty quiet about a lot of things. One of them is race. I hate talking about race, because we are all part of the human race. The color of my skin should matter little, the way I look should also not matter; but I am constantly reminded that it really does. I love talking about ethnicity and heritage, because learning about other cultures and just culture is in general is one of my favorite things to do. I think culture enriches your life. It adds the flavor. I think race in the other hand is a construct to create division. So how do we talk about this subject without fear or shame?
First we have to be honest about our own prejudice or ignorance. If we don’t know people of a certain ethnicity or “racial” group we should start by getting to know them. That is the first step towards removing shame. Ignorance is probably the first culprit. When someone reminds (or tells us) that the wealth of this country was largely created on the backs of slaves we might not only feel shame, but also attacked. Then the defensiveness comes in. We have to acknowledge our past, the fact that we had our own interment camps or that we made it illegal to be Chinese. Those are all true parts of our history. Just as much as the inquisition is part of the history of Christianity, just as much as the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church are true. The perpetrators should be ashamed, however we don’t have to be ashamed to be Catholic or American. Pride and supremacy are not the same thing, we can be proud of something and where it turns into a back thing is when we switch that to superiority. So no reason to feel shame, also no reason to feel superior.
The next problem with the race conversation is fear. The conversation is tough because there is the fear or the unknown, the fear of saying the wrong thing and also just the fear of how to start the conversation. You have to start by recognizing the fact that if you are not part of that created group, you probably don’t have all the context. For example, I went to a predominantly black high school. That does not make me an expert on the black experience. Might make me familiar, an ally, but if you want the real story you have to talk to a black person. Also you have to understand that one person does not speak for everyone. Just because you have met me, it does not mean you now know all Colombians. Also it only gives you my perspective which is pretty nuanced. I know this only adds to the fear that basically no matter how hard you try you will never be able to understand or communicate. That is simply not true. Most people just want you to recognize that they are human, just like you and that you should acknowledge that there are differences but that we should all get the same opportunities and like the people that are protesting right now we should all feel welcome.
If people of color are not welcomed into your house you should be honest with yourself and know that you are racist.
If you have had a conversation with me since the election you know that I have been trying to bridge the gap between those that supported Trump and everyone else. I have heard the argument over and over that Trump is not racist or a white supremacist. My bar used to be mighty high. Even when people were racist towards me in the past, I would just push it off as just ignorance and moved along. I have had many people be openly racist towards me and just let it slide. That said, the moment Trump called Mexicans bad hombres, rapist, etc. he became a racist to me. After further inspection of his record, there is evidence that he believes he is superior to others. Therefore we have to start there. We have to admit that what he is saying (not just this weekend to the NFL, but in many other instances.) He is racist. He uses race and religion to lump people together. If those things are not bad in your book, then you have to admit it to yourself. You are supporting a racist.
1. a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
synonyms:racial bigot, racialist, xenophobe, chauvinist, supremacist…
Now that we got that out of the way, lets explore that a little further. I think I have found a bridge to finally have this conversation. We are all racist to some degree. We have no excuse not to correct it, but stereotypes are something we all have fallen pray to. When I see someone with a confederate flag sticker on the back of their truck I label them a racist. I don’t believe on the “heritage, not hate” argument. So there, I am also a racist. I lump a whole lot of white people together on their complicit use of that symbol. That one along with the swastika are non starters for me. I will judge you. I am not ashamed of it. I do not fear them. I do however come to a place on the conversation where we might have to fork away from each other. To me, no matter how you see any of those symbols, they mean at the end of the day “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.”
I think this is a way we can come together again. Recognizing the things that might make others feel unwelcome and talk about them. When someone calls you racist, they are not attacking you, they are just giving you a label. Just like I received multiple labels when I came to the US. If you are not comfortable with that label than maybe you should start the conversation, with no fear and no shame. Please explain to me why you are calling me racist, what did I do to deserve that label. At that point you have to be humble and know that at least in this country white people don’t get to decide what is racist. They are not the minority and no matter what the alt-right wants you to believe they are not oppressed.
This weekend exemplified that better and more clearly than ever before. Alt-right people in Charlotesville were called “fine people” by the POTUS and athletes protesting against police brutality were called SOBs. If you chose to ignore how wrong that is you are OK with people not feeling welcome. If you dismiss Nazi imagery as not a big deal and simply freedom of expression you are OK with people not feeling welcome. If the concentration camps or the “colored” only signs on water fountains don’t make you sick to your stomach, you are OK with people not feeling welcome.
So let’s start the conversation about race. Don’t be ashamed or afraid of it. If you want people to feel welcome in your house, your neighborhood, your place of work or your country; you have to start asking yourself if you are aligning yourself with symbols or people that make others not feel welcome. Not saying I have all the answers, but I hope this at least helps start the conversation.