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11 August 2012

The 'R' Word

Too many people throw around the 'R' word . . . racist. It makes me completely insane.

Partly, it's the writer in me throwing a hissy, but primarily, it's my sense of frustration regarding the dialogue, or lack thereof about race in our country. Do I believe Dr. Laura to be a racist? Absolutely not. Do I believe she harbors prejudices regarding blacks and others? Absolutely. Do I harbor prejudices? Absolutely.

People persist in crying racism, when what they really mean is prejudice. What's the difference? My mother knows the difference. Her father was killed by a couple of white men out on a lark. Her stepfather knows the difference. During the Korean war blacks were allowed to use the base swimming pool on Fridays only. On Saturdays they drained the pool. Racism, institutional and otherwise, is prejudice set aflame by fear and hate.

Prejudice is a human failing. One we all share. I have friends who will complain about some minor indignity  endured at the grocery store or dry cleaners; who will then say something completely ignorant about Asians. Not any particular nationality, just lump all Asians together and make a ridiculous generalization.

As a child infected by six o'clock news coverage of a sea of handcuffed black men; I remember coming out of my reverie (a constant state with me back then) to see a black man coming up the street and being frightened for no reason other than the fact of his blackness. We are all vulnerable to buying into stereotypes without examining them.

The problem with characterizing a common human failing as something hateful; is that it ends the conversation. We can't talk about race across racial lines in this country. We won't get anywhere until white people can ask a question  or make a statement which may reveal prejudice or ignorance without being fitted for a white hood. That kind of has to be the first step. Anyway, just had to get that out of my system.