I’m alarmed by the increasing number of politicians, educators, clergy, business leaders, and average Joe’s and Jane’s who accuse each other of racism. These same folks are quick to state “it’s not about race” even before anyone challenges one of their politically incorrect views or statements.
There was a time when I wasn’t uncomfortable when speaking publicly about racial issues. Until recently, I actually enjoyed participating in discussions about racial and cultural differences. Today, I seldom do this because when folks hear my accent (I was raised in South Alabama), they incorrectly assume I’m a racist. Racism is based incorrect assumptions:
- Just ‘cause my Mama or Granny believed it doesn’t make the assumption so
- Thinking you know what is in my heart doesn’t make the assumption so
- Believing you know the inner-most working of my mind, doesn’t make the assumption so
- Pre-judging my motivation, without ever discussing the topic, sure as hell don’t make it so.
Awhile back, a beautiful African-American friend of mine made an incorrect assumption and created an embarrassing scene at a grocery store. She completely misjudged a young Caucasian employee’s motives for staring at her as she was shopping in the store. He followed her around the store and kept glancing at her but avoiding direct eye contact. Assuming he equated black women with sneak thieves, she approached him and said loudly, “I know why you are watching me so closely. But I’m not going to steal any of your merchandise, so you can relax.” The embarrassed and flustered man stammered his reply: “I’m so sorry for upsetting you. I don’t often see a woman as pretty as you and I was enjoying the view.”
Over time, incorrect and inaccurate assumptions become part of a culture. The usual result is that one group begins treating another group with cruelty and unfairness. Then, each group accuses the other’s culture or ethnicity of creating the problem. Nobody wants to listen to reason or consider that their assumptions may be incorrect.
When it comes to racism, no magic solution is going to appear, no genie will pop out of a bottle, and no conquering hero will ride in on a magic steed to make race issues go away. The fix is to engage in meaningful discussion, exchange of ideas, share honest, direct conversation. Having open dialogue about racial issues is the best way to resolve them. Engaging in honest dialogue will help clear up misunderstandings and reduce the resentment that all-too-easily blossoms into full blown racism. If we are voicing a point of view about race/racism, let’s drop the disclaimer “it’s not about race”. If we aren’t willing to admit the true nature of the discussion, even when it is indeed about race, we won’t ever have truly meaningful conversations about human differences.
Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV. Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.