A Previous Generation’s View of Racism (And My Own Thoughts)
I found myself in a conversation with an elderly white woman today. (I note her skin color because it is relevant to the story.) She was saying she is prejudiced “to a point”. She pointed out that she believes most people are, and that she knows that blacks are just as prejudiced against her as she is against them (apparently that makes it okay). She said she grew up on a tobacco farm and was raised with blacks, that she has some very close black friends and that she knows some blacks who are “twice as good” as some whites. She said, “This isn’t the 1950’s anymore, and people just need to realize that and get along with the times.”
We discussed a few other current events, including that she is against the protesting that is happening because of all the violence and damage to property. I pointed out that there are far more peaceful protests, and that I believe that many, but not all, are not necessarily protesting Trump, but are making their voices heard against the ramifications of his election (and how he ran his campaign) and how this is interpreted by a number of people to giving them permission to be more active and outspoken in their racism. She didn’t agree that this was the case.
I pointed out to her that in the short time since the election there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of hate crimes and blatantly racist incidents across the country. I told her that although we are not in the 1950’s anymore, there are those who believe we should still have many of the same segregation laws and restrictions on civil rights for non-white ethnic groups that were in place back then (“Making America Great Again”). I said that there are others who are “less racist”, but feel that society has been so adamant in making all races equal that the white people have been forgotten or lowered in their standing as a culture. I told her that this is still racism, and it has compelled them to “take their country back”. She was no longer interested in continuing the conversation at that point.
The experience was a bit disheartening for me. I am very much aware that one of the primary ways racism is ever going to become extinct in this country is when we all stop passing it on to our children. It was clear to me that, while this particular woman is not someone I would think is a “bad person” or an overt racist, she represents the feelings of far too many people in this country (ONE is too many), and I am wondering when or if it is ever going to end. The ingrained thought process that is willingly or unconsciously passed on to the next generation is so critical in shaping the future of this country. Is it really possible that we are bringing up yet another generation of racist bigots? Looking at some of the racist incidents that are happening in our schools right now, my breaking heart answers that question with a tearful yes.
I know that my children do not believe this way. I know all of my friends’ and relatives’ children do not subscribe to these ignorant beliefs. But we were lucky enough to grow up in familial, geographical and social constructs that contributed to the elimination of this cancer in our families. Now I live in the south, and I feel like I’m surrounded by so many who did not benefit from the same enlightenment. Not everyone, mind you, but the percentage is so much higher than when I lived in Northern California.
What can be done to change this? I find myself repeatedly asking this question. There must be more we can do than just fix ourselves and our families. Talking about it with those who are of a different mindset is a small start. Living lives that communicate the change we want to see is another. Yet I am too impatient to wait for bigotry to die its slow death, and I do not trust that it will work its way to the grave over time. I want to be a part of mercilessly killing it, and I want to watch it die in my lifetime. This calls for action outside of our comfort zones and everyday situations, and again I am still figuring out what that looks like for me. If you share my sentiments, what does it look like for you? What are you doing about it?
This post was originally published on my Facebook profile on 11/17/16. I am working on moving previous related posts from there to Medium in order to continue the journey here that I started sharing there.