How America Spreads the Disease that is Racism by not Confronting Racist Family Members and Friends
April Harter, LCSW

What a tender but tough take on this topic. I was talking about racism last night with someone dear to me. Racism, like the gravity of immensely dense objects, bends even light. Science, reason, direct observation can all be bent, twisted, warped until any resemblance to what they might have been is gone. We talked about the small and tragic differences that are taken to be racial characteristics that divide us from them. Obscuring the only fact that matters that we are one people, mixed and remixed over time to a healthy and vigorous diversity. Not only is one flavor boring but it is, in the long run, unhealthy, for our survival as one species depends on a wide range of characteristics in our gene pool. Limited and isolated populations are at risk, especially in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. I went to school in the one integrated district in a deeply divided and segregated city. St. Louis in the 1970s was highly polarized except for our small pocket. I still live with the hope born out of that experience and with the shame of not standing up when I did encounter blatant racism, shocked by its blunt and ugly head I recoiled when it arose and bared its fangs. Unable to reconcile the blind, unreasoning hatred with the person who a moment before had been rational and a friend.

I think of my third grade teacher who noticed I was being bullied but wouldn’t speak up. “Sometimes, B. you just have to fight back. If you need to hit or kick. I won’t say anything,” she said.

I think of the movie, American History X.

I think of the freedom riders, the courageous marchers in each decade and generation who stood up and showed up to stand together. I think of the Simon and Garfunkel song I listened to yesterday.

He was my brother
Tears can’t bring him back to me
He was my brother
And he died so his brothers could be free
He died so his brothers could be free

There shouldn’t have to be dying but there does have to be confrontation and calling this a human sickness not a condition of being human.



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