a brief respite: on racism and acceptance

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Only three parts in and I find myself a little tired of dissecting our political spectrum in America. And more annoyed with how our partisanship is built over false divides. The reality is that most Americans want a fairer distribution of wealth in America and a system more like that found in the Scandinavian countries. I believe the poll I saw was 92% of Americans. The more I’ve put my thoughts to words, the more frustrated I’ve become at seeing what is holding us back. I don’t think that the Democratic Party is free of bigots, but they don’t support racist or sexist policies (only on occasion), unlike the Republican Party. Nor are bigots necessarily bad people, something that is easy to ignore. We say, look at the evil these people wreak with their wrongheadedness, in their actions and their thoughts. We want to blame them for the ills of our society. They are not blameless, but in the same way that we see the poor, or criminals as products of their environment, I see the same with the racists, sexists, politicians, and capitalists. It is very hard to exist within a social group while maintaining completely different ideologies, which is why you don’t see Marxists casually hanging out with Tea Partiers. Our entire concept of how the world works is in the ideology we accept. Ageism is a perfect example of this, because in some cultures the old are still venerated, while in our youth-centered, consumerist culture we deride the elderly for their inability to fit in, to adopt our rapidly changing technologies and ideas. Are we really surprised that old people tend to be more racist and more sexist? No, because that was more normal in their day (doesn’t make it right, but it is what it is). We look at our youth, which is far more tolerant than the generations before us, which, again, is not surprising. It’s a feedback loop; the more accepting our society is, the more accepting we are because we are society.

In the Progressive Era, many abolitionists abandoned their posts as champions for the black folk and turned racist. This isn’t as known well as it should be, but most abolitionists were pretty racist even before this and said pretty racist things. But after the turn of the century, the country just became even more racist. It was everywhere; one could not escape racist messaging. It was in advertising, it was in schoolbooks, it was in all forms of media, a constant barrage on the psyche of Americans in that day. Ernest Hemingway referred to blacks in his early works as nigger, just used the word as if that’s what the term was for blacks. Which, at that time, horribly, is how it was used.

What I mean to say, with this, is that we don’t win necessarily by shouting down the bigots. I know people will disagree with me, but what I believe is that we need to have completely open discussions with racists about race. Let them state their views without coded language so it can be truly seen for what it is. No more hiding behind states’ rights or other bywords. The Crown Heights Riot is an amazing story about what conversation can do for communities. After the riot, which resulted in two deaths, the black and Jewish communities engaged with each other and have improved racial relations in the neighborhood. This is what is needed, not simply condemnation but showing people the error of their ways, without shaming, because what is more important than being right is bringing us all together in acceptance.
Or we may just have to wait for the bigots to die out.

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