My mother taught me, long ago, that a noisy racist was preferable to a quiet one. I didn’t know what she meant by that until a white cub scout leader told me to run like a Mexican and I thought “like my uncles?”
It’s just better if we’re all honest about it. I know a popular liberal reaction to news about racial bias is to shout, “this is not normal!” But, my friends, it is normal. This is America from day one.
This country has spent the last two-hundred and forty-two years trying to work out how to live together peacefully while also murdering each other every chance we got.
The indigenous peoples of North America were butchered. Millions of Africans were the fresh produce of a global business based on human suffering. Protestants killed Catholics, and vice versa. The Mormons were chased across the country at gunpoint. We threw Japanese-Americans into prison camps for the hell of it. When we’re not shooting each other, we’re blowing each other up with bombs. We’ve assassinated four of our presidents — the most powerful people in our history — a record that is positively Roman. In my mother’s lifetime, the racist warlords of Ku Klux Klan ran entire states and stories of young black men hanging from trees were greeted with shrugs by good church-going folks.
Fast forward to today and, you know, we’ve come along way, but the state is still busy shooting unarmed non-white people, so there’s still a long, long way to go.
So: That a S.W.A.T. team of bicycle helmet-wearing law enforcement officers showed up because a pair of black men parked themselves, momentarily, in a safe space designed to sell syrup and caffeine to the overeducated bourgeoisie is absolutely a normal occurrence.
Because I am a mighty white man, I know all of the negative responses to writing these truths. I usually just ignore most of them, though. My favorite is, of course, that I am “virtue signaling.” If you don’t know what that means then, please, enjoy your ignorance in this one instance. “Virtue signaling” is a popular form of folk rhetoric meant to protect the tender-hearted from having to accept responsibility for their moral choices. If you’re ever accused of it, I suggest you wave, and wink.
But here is one answer to a question I find especially silly. Are marginalized people racist? Absolutely. You think Latinos look at me and say “hermano!” Oh, no, no, no. Why would they? I look like the guy who gets snippy if the breakfast burrito I ordered was five minutes late. But until I start seeing people of color on the money I use to buy double caramel macchiatos, I think they should get a pass.
I’m just being honest. I’m reporting from another dimension where people are white on the outside, and brown on the inside, or the reverse. A twilight zone where no one is just one color. An alternate reality of outcasts. I have spent time on this planet of yours called Earth, and I think you should know, it is racist as fuck.
And there I go, again, making sweeping statements. I should speak from the “I.”
I believe racism is a sin. I probably think this way because of my Southern Baptist father. The Southern Baptist church doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to race relations. But the preacher I grew up with greeted my mother and I with respect and warmth. Yes, we were papists and, yes, I was a mutt, but he was kind. From the pulpit I taught that we’re all sinners. Humans sin because that is what humans do. Sins are easy to commit. They are thoughtless actions. Racism is pride, and greed, and wrath. Envy. Racism lies. It is hate, given false dignity. I’ll skip the part about how forgiveness requires accepting the lord Jesus Christ as your savior. I don’t want to diminish that belief but I’m a firm believer in taking what works for me, and leaving the rest. The only way for a sinner to not sin is to admit they are a sinner. And then it’s simple: try not to sin. Pray. Meditate. If you are weak, and succumb to sin, try again. Ask for forgiveness. Forgive yourself. Be thoughtful. Fill your heart with love. Share.
I try but, still, to this day, if I’m walking home late at night and I see a black man walking towards me I get scared, and I have to remind myself that he’s probably scared, too. I will be racist until the day I die and I hope, if there is an otherworldly accounting of my deeds in life, the presiding celestial bean counter will note how I tried my best to be fair, and open-hearted, and even though I failed from time to time, I repented, and tried again, and again.