Hell, I don’t even know where to begin. Or, what’s worse, why I even need to, to begin with.
The hardest thing for me to wrap my head around is that there are people out there who adamantly believe that equality should not exist.
Let’s think about what that means….
There are actually free-willed minds, in our free nation, enjoying our freedoms, our rights and liberties made prevalent by the ideals that “ALL MEN are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” who are truly impassioned by the notion that a certain skin color voids whatever unalienable rights that were God given.
Alright, let’s take out all the big words: there are people in this country (and all over the world) who are positively certain, that the color of your skin determines what rights you should have.
Take it in. Let that lunacy sink in.
How are we not more enraged by this way of thinking? How do we walk around, as freedom loving Americans, accepting such a fallacy, such a blatant ignorance of the human condition?
How in the fuck is racism still tolerated?!
Well, I think to further give merit and understanding to this social abomination, I must first honestly examine myself. (Bear with me, this is going to be long)
I claim to not be a Racist. Hell, the thought of hating others so bitterly based solely on their race simply disgusts me. But, I would be a complete liar if I said that I would not act, feel, or think a little differently if I went to a party where I was the only white guy there. I would certainly, if only initially, feel out of place.
So let’s break that down. I would feel different… why?
Well, I would feel different because I would have the inaccurate assumption that I need to be different in that situation. I would be worried about offending someone when I didn’t mean to. I would be ashamed because I am white and white stands for racism and I hate that Racism is still a thing in America, in the world. I would feel different because I would want them all to know that I am against that type of mentality. And I would feel like I need to prove to them that I am NOT an intolerant, ignorant, prejudice asshole.
But… is that racist? To feel that another race would assume that I am racist? Holly shit, I’m blowing my mind right now.
Truthfully, I think I would act a little differently at this party. If nothing else, I would be more reserved until I acclimated to my environment (although this is true with any party or social gathering, so maybe this feeling is void on this topic). But, I can tell you right now that I would probably attempt to be cool, when in actuality, I am nowhere near that type of caliber.
I would use words like “bro, chill, swag; and make references to Jay-Z or Ditty,” (and probably in the wrong context, because I really don’t use those words all that much, bro). Because, in my sometimes-idiotic-mind this is my stereotype of Black men. And, I think that I would want to blend in when it came to mannerisms, again, to show that I am not racist. I guess, I would be trying to ease their minds and make them feel more comfortable about being around a White Guy.
But even wanting to fit in, is fundamentally a diversity issue. Who am I to say that the people at this party, simply because they are darker complected than I, would even be different from me in the first place? Do you see how these stereotypes affect our decisions?
I would be thinking differently because I would want to prove their stereotypes wrong, while I, too, am stereotyping. I would be more worried about not offending them or making them feel uncomfortable, than just simply being myself and having fun.
Is that disturbing in any way? Is it sickening to have this type of mindset? That I should behave slightly differently if I was at an all Black party, compared to an all White party?
Well, it certainly arouses my attention about our stereotyping culture.
But, is stereotyping racism??
Here’s the thing, would that type of thinking (as explained above) be viewed any differently if it was a fancy mixed race party that was strictly suit and tie, with expensive wine, caviar, and a seafood buffet? Because I can tell you right now, that I would be thinking and feeling the same way. I would act according to the situation.
In other words, my crazy redneck ass would certainly be minding his manners.
And we can apply this same rational thought process to any party where I would feel out of place. I think it’s semi-safe to say that most people would probably feel similar in this way. Because, people adapt to their environment; they change certain small characteristics in order to feel accepted. Am I wrong in stating that?
When you really think about it, we stereotype all the time.
If I told you to name the first thing that you think of when I say “White, trailer-trash, redneck,” would a person resembling Joe Dirt come to mind? Or if I said “what does a terrorist look like?” Would you imagine someone of Middle-Eastern Ethnicity?
And if I said, “Describe a racist.” Do you immediately think of some country bumpkin, tobacco-mouthed, poor-grammared, tattooed white guy? Or maybe a Confederate flag waving, nazi-emblemed skinhead?
Alright, so the truth is, we stereotype people. For whatever reason, social insecurities, instincts, learned social behaviors, fears, or media brainwashing… the truth is, we do it.
And maybe this is the foundation for such hate? Maybe this is a genuine reason for fearing and hating what is not like us? And Hell, maybe understanding that we “naturally” do this, may even help us to not be so prejudice?
Are stereotypes where racism comes from?
(And honestly, if you’re still with me at this point, God bless ya. I’m just trying to understand where such hate and evil comes from.)
So, I’ll use my own experiences as an example…
I joined the Marines after 9/11. I went and fought in Iraq in 2005. I watched the news and headlines when Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations threatened to behead me, to rape and kill my family, and fuck my goat… no no no, sorry, that was rude.
Using these experiences, I (naturally) stereotype people of middle-eastern decent as people who want to do me harm. Now, granted, I try think more rationally and logically than that, and certainly conclude that having those thoughts are incorrect, for the most part. But because of these experiences and perceptions, I am shamefully weary around people who speak Arabic.
I don’t hate them though. I don’t want to hang them or murder them (unless they threaten me or my family). And this is where I cannot understand the hateful racism that has, and currently is, fouling our nation.
Now, let me ask this, from my white, middle class, intellectual-redneck perspective… are we underlining and making racism worse by trying to overly deny that we are racists? Are we, as a culture, sometimes putting these pressures on people to go so far above and beyond that they think that they need to act so anti-racist… that they are actually highlighting the fact that they are so different in the first place?
I guess what I mean is, the common expression I hear from my white peeps is, “I’m not racist because I have black friends.” Or, “I dated a black girl once,” or, “I can’t be racist because I dress like, talk like, and act like how the few black people I know act?”
And is that Racism? Is it racist to change your behavior around a different race? Is it racist to be culturally sensitive, or to, I guess it would seem, stereotype groups of people based on appearance or race?
(Yes, this shit is getting deep. I hope that you’re all still with me.)
Racism is defined by Dictionary.com (yes, I have the app) as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others. Also, hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.”
For me, personally, I certainly do not hate a group of people based on their race or color. But, I think that I do judge other’s based on their culture, or maybe even “assumed” culture. And by “judge” I don’t necessarily mean with a negative connotation, I simply mean that I gather visual information based on what I initially see or think that something represents. I feel that that is human nature and instinctual to some degree, whether or not it is morally correct.
But when people talk about racism and prejudice, I don’t think that they necessarily mean that people act a little differently around different people.
I think it’s more of the hate and evil intentions. I think it is the negative perceptions that we have on those that do not look like “us,” that is the problem.
It’s the name calling with intent to mentally harm. It’s the belief that this person cannot perform as well, because of their skin color. It’s the passing up of opportunities because they don’t fit the right ethnicity that you are used to. It’s the differing of criminal records, because “I” got a warning, and “he” went to jail. It’s the blatant disrespect before they are even given a chance to show you their true character.
It’s the insane lack of compassion for another human being simply because they do not look like you, act like you, or come from where you come from. That is the problem of racism.
And what I don’t understand is that hate against diversity.
Do we just fear what is not familiar? Are too dense to understand what is different?
And let’s just be transparent here, Racism isn’t just White vs. Black. I’ve seen the ugliness of racism in many forms, against many different peoples. Hell, I’ll even raise a little commotion by saying that I’ve seen racism in the words and actions of Black folks against White folks.
While racism gets most of its attention in the media as being a White atrocity against a Black people… racism is not limited to one race hating another… it is ANY race hating another. It is the hate and belief that another race is superior or inferior based on their skin tone, culture or demographics.
To be clear, Racism isn’t just a White thing (though, it does seem to get the most attention). Racism is found in every race of people out there. It is worldwide.
And God Dammit… to Hell with it all!
Are we not all People? Are we not all human beings? Is your small mind so constraint that it cannot possibly fathom the concept that we are all the same people, experiencing the same struggles, the same emotions, the same pain, love, and hate. When you look at the big picture, are we not all from the same place, the same planet?
Hel, let’s get abstract for a moment, shall we?
I’m a lover of Sci-fi and Alien type doomsday movies and books (it’s the curious imagination inside of me). But I have to wonder how another intelligent species might view the people of Earth when or if they ever come? Would they laugh at our lack of unity? Would they immediately conclude that we are no better than the sharks in the sea who feed upon all, even their own?
Or would they pity us, and consider our intolerances a form of inferiority?
Would they conquer us, knowing that we are not worthy of what is precious?
Can we not think in such astronomical terms, that ultimately, we are all the same community?
Do we not all value love, life, and family? Are we really all that different? Do we not all feel, give, bleed, and desire?
Are we not all of the same flesh, of the same sea, the same air, land, and stars? Are we not all of one finite place, of one finite time, leaving one finite mark on eternity?
People… We. Are. The. Same.
So what’s the solution when our actions are driven by fear and lack of understanding? How do we get better at treating things that are different differently? What should we do to remedy hate, prejudice, and bigotry?
Well, there’s not an easy fix when such hate and ignorance is so deeply rooted. But in my own humble experience and rationale, I think a good start would be to talk to each other, to interact in a respectful and calm manner with each other. I think that when you lack an understanding of something, then you should try to gain experience with what you do not grasp.
Go talk with someone whom you may have stereotyped or judged based on their looks and demographics. Find out what is important to them, what they value, who they are, what their opinions are, what they stand for and why they do what they do.
I imagine that we all will learn how similar we really are, if we just give each other a fighting chance.
You see, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of love, equality, human decency, and respect.
Well, I have a dream, too; one where a time of unity and diverse appreciation is common place.
A dream where I do not even think twice about how to act or to feel at a party of people who do not look like me….
Where we shake each other’s hands instead of beating each other’s heads. Where we listen and talk, understand and relate. A dream where we love instead of hate.
A dream where we… are all WE.
Click on one of these 5 star rated books to read more of Jacob Paul Patchen.