I go through phases of anger, and phases of increased awareness of racism that infuses our little melting pot. It is an imperfect world and ignorant, half thought out, to completely thoughtless notions of how to interpret experiences will always be with us. It is a much better world now than the pre-civil rights era world. As a society we recognized how damaging to the psyche racist divisions were. Creating both a belief in a pitiful self worth on behalf of the oppressed parties, and also creating a situation were the powerful party had a perpetual scapegoat to attack in times of problems. A convenient scapegoat means no reason to dig deeper to find the real sources of social evil. If beaners and ni##ers, and whoever else, just act like that, just are like that, don’t know any better, then there is no reason to extend the same opportunity and investment into these communities to help them fix and better the situations they face as are put into other communities. But enough of the history. We’ve moved past that time of overt racism.
Where we are now is much quieter. But the beleifs held on to about racial identities are still as damaging as those of the past. I’m kind of struggling to write this. I just want to say this: be careful of the attitudes and beliefs we hold onto about other peoples. How do we read the situations we see and the actions of others. I recently had a conversation with someone terribly upset that the hardworking middle-class neighborhood of her parent’s generation was going to be ruined by the sale of a house to two families. “And I hate to say it, but they were Mexican.” (her words) The equation in her mind was that these people were not the same hardworking, struggling kind of her parent’s generation. When we can’t recognize the simple truths about shared values between our communities and others we are already dangling our toes over the line of racism. It is painful. It was painful to have to defend a good hardworking family to someone who interpreted their actions as a flaw of their dna, or even their culture. I’m not so stupid that I don’t recongize there is nuance to this equation. She undoubtedly would not want any two families moving into one house. But the set of assumptions made about how these Mexicans would care for their home(i.e. not care for their home), and what this would mean for the neighborhood, do not reflect any kind of nuanced thinking. Ultimately she didn’t beleive that where these people wanted to go was toward a better life. She didn’t beleive that what they wanted for their kids was a safe neighborhood with access to education and opportunity. Their move in 2007 was different than her parents move in the 1970’s.
Be careful how you explain people to yourself. Be careful what you believe about Middle Easterners, Whites, Blacks…. The world is a great deal more complicated than dna. The things that emerge as differences between cultures are much less fundamental than the core values we all carry as human beings.